“A long approach to a fragile, subalpine environment at the base of a glacier.
— Tom Robson
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This route progresses in a very steady nature, starting from the graded doubletrack of Westside Road
, to the incredibly steep singletrack on South Puyallup
Trail. This route is made well-worth the effort as you approach the western slopes of Glacier Island, Tahoma Glacier, and Mount Rainier itself. Glacier Island is a sub-peak of Rainier once fully encircled by both the South Tahoma and Tahoma Glaciers.
Fires are prohibited. No pets on trails. Treat water before drinking.
Need to Know
The South Puyallup
River Camp is located 1.6 miles from the trailhead near the junction with the Wonderland Trail
. Camping is not permitted atop Emerald Ridge because of the fragile nature of the area and the lack of suitable spots. Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available park-wide from wilderness information centers, ranger stations, and visitor centers.
Take the Westside Road
to the gate at Dry Creek (approximately 3 miles from the start of the road). Due to danger from rock fall, vehicles must park south of the barricade at Dry Creek. Hikers and bicyclists should travel through the area with caution and avoid lingering in the rock fall hazard zone. Hike up the closed portion of the road to the Puyallup River trailhead (approximately 4.5 miles).
The first 1.6 miles of trail climbs gradually through old growth forest to the South Puyallup
Camp on Round Pass
. From the camp, South Puyallup
becomes very rocky and climbs much more steeply.
Once atop Emerald Ridge, please stay on the constructed trails and rock outcroppings. The delicate subalpine vegetation is damaged by off-trail hiking and other uses.
Flora & Fauna
About 1.5 miles up the trail look for high columns of andesite. These hexagonal columns were formed during the cooling process after hot lava flowed through the valley thousands of years ago. Atop Emerald Ridge, the vegetation changes from forest to subalpine. Hikers may enjoy superb views of the Tahoma Glacier and Mount Rainier.