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.
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.