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Carbon Glacier

  4.2 ( 5 ) Favorite


17.2 mile 27.7 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 1,790' 546 m
Descent: -1,790' -546 m
High: 3,474' 1,059 m
Low: 1,773' 541 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 23% (13°)


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Trail shared by Brian Smith

The best way to experience a glacier firsthand.

Brian Smith

Features Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife


The trail follows the Carbon River through the forest to the snout of the glacier. Beware of rocks falling from the glacier snout. Do not approach the glacier -- enjoy the view from the constructed trail.


The Carbon River, named for coal deposits found in the area, is located in the parks northwest corner. This part of Mount Rainier National Park receives consistently high amounts of rainfall, so the climate and plant communities found here resemble that of a temperate rainforest.

The Carbon River road was washed out by the 2006 flood and is open to vehicles only to the Carbon River Ranger Station at the park boundary. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic are permitted on the remainder of the road inside the park. Carbon is reached via the Carbon River road, off of State Route 165.

The Carbon River Trail now begins at the Carbon River entrance at the northwest border of the park. Bikes are allowed on this portion of the trail so expect to see some folks out riding... Bikes are not allowed on trails past the campground. Given that this trail follows an old roadbed, it's quite easy-going; the grade stays consistent at ~2%.

After reaching Ipsut Creek Campground, the trail maintains a gentle uphill grade as it parallels the Carbon River. At 1.7 miles from the Ipsut Creek Campground, cross the Carbon River on a foot log bridge. Once across, continue upriver to reconnect with the Wonderland Trail at the Carbon River Suspension Bridge. Do not cross the suspension bridge, continue straight to the Carbon Glacier overlook.

Flora & Fauna

The Carbon River area includes old-growth forest and inland temperate rain forest. The Carbon Glacier is the lowest elevation glacier in the lower 48 states.

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Sep 4, 2017
Erin Blaine
Jun 9, 2017
Nathan Godfrey
2 people, 1 night stay 4.9mi
Feb 5, 2016
D14411 F
Nov 12, 2015
D14411 F
Major tree-fall made the route impassable (with my available time) around the 7 mile mark. 14mi

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 5 votes


  4.2 from 5 votes
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