Hike to Mount Rainier's Panhandle Gap

Rate this Adventure Washington Mount Rainier Summerland Trail, Panhandle Gap

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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.

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Camera
  • Sun Protection
  • Ice Axe
  • A beer or cider for the top
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Activities:

Photography, Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Summer

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

12 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3000 Feet

Features:

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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