Try This Trail: Sourdough Ridge
It's one sweet view from an underused trail on Mount Rainier's north side.
Distance: 8 miles round trip
Named for the sour bread favored by miners, Sourdough’s views are among the sweetest in Mount Rainier National Park. It's a well-groomed trail along the crest of a 7,000-foot-plus ridge, passing around craggy knolls and through flowered meadows, with sweeping views of Mount Rainier.
Surprisingly, Sourdough Ridge doesn’t receive the crowds that other nearby trails see. It helps that it starts from Sunrise Point, rather than the popular Sunrise's visitor's center; from there, you hike the entire four-mile trail facing the magnificent mountain. When you can force your eyes away from Rainier itself, scan the horizons north and south for other prominent peaks, including Mount Adams and Mount Baker.
As you ascend from the 6,100-foot trailhead, you're going west; as you steadily climb on a relatively isolated trial above Sunrise Road, admire sparkling Sunrise Lake and the glacier fields. At 1.2 miles is a short side trip to 7,006-foot Dege Peak for a survey the entire ridge.
Raptors ride the thermal ridges and ground squirrels kick up dust across the trail. As you continue along the ridge around Antler Peak, look for the antlers of the high meadows deer. At 2.4 miles, the crossroads start: Avoid a trail that diverges left to Sunrise, then again when other paths to Sunrise and Huckleberry Creek cross the way. At 4 miles the trail ends at a busy junction near the appropriately named Frozen Lake. When you do an about face for the return trip, Mount Rainier is at your back, but the less-prominent surrounding peaks are in full view.
Watch For: Mountain goats and black bears live in the northern basins along Sourdough Ridge.
Getting there: From Seattle, follow I-5 south to SR 18 East to Auburn. Take SR 164 to Enumclaw, then continue east on SR 410 for 37.5 miles. Turn right onto the Sunrise Road and continue for 12.7 miles to trailhead at Sunrise Point.
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Day Hiking Central Cascades and Backpacking Washington.