Hike to Mount Rainier's Panhandle Gap

Details

Distance

12 miles

Elevation Gain

3000 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Isaac Desautels

Majestic views of Mount Rainer, bright mountain wildflowers, and glissading your way down from the peak. Bring a pair of skis and build a jump to play on all afternoon.

The trail is 12 mi round trip but don’t let the distance for an out and back turn you off - this hike is fantastic and even better with a beer at the top. The trail winds its way through an old growth forest and shortly joins the Wonderland Trail. After crossing a crick the trail steepens and begins to switchback alongside Fryingpan Creek. Continue on in the forest; as you climb the trees become smaller, and alpine firs dot the landscape. The trail opens and you cross a bridge over Fryingpan Creek while taking in views of Mount Rainer. Alongside the creek, the trail continues to climb before veering off to a section of step switchbacks to the left.

Upon reaching the top after 4.5 miles of hiking, you are now in the sprawling Summerland Meadow. Wildflowers are plentiful during the right time of year. There are also campsites that making for excellent camping, however you must reserve these in advance. Mount Rainer and little Tahoma tower over the meadow, and glacier streams cut through the landscape. You may see goats, as well as marmots and maybe a bear, although that is quite rare.

The trail continues on, and becomes quite rocky. Additionally the rest of the trail can be covered in snow. You may want to bring poles and crampons. There is a sizeable waterfall that plunges three times in view, which the trail crosses further up the stream. Make your way up towards the Pan Handle gap carefully as the trail is steep, icy, and tough to navigate.

Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with 360 views of Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, Mount Hood, Mt Rainer, and craggy peaks all around. Sit down and put your drink on snow to cool down. Eat lunch and wash it down with a cold beer or cider. After, take a peek over the ledge into the large snow field you previously came up and if there is enough snow, start sliding your way down.

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Know for

Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Reviews

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This trail is beautiful

Even though it's lengthy and at sometimes strenuous, It is definitely worth the view at the top. I would recommended hiking poles as I hiked the whole thing without and it gets pretty tough especially on the snow. This hike lives up to the fact that it is a longer hike, expect 4-6 hours, but like the few people I passed on the way back asking me if the "view was worth it" I replied with a "oh yes" have fun. Bring sunscreen, protein, and lots of water!

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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