backpack: Mount Rainier – Berkeley Park
On this four day backpacking trip at Mount Rainier, we camped at Berkeley Park and did day hikes to Skyscraper Pass and Second Burroughs Mountain.
Permits are required for all backcountry campsites at Mount Rainier. This was the first year the park implemented an advance lottery for permits, and we were lucky to get one for Berkeley Park for three nights.
Day 1 – hike in to campsite
4 miles with 417 ft. gain & 1,200 ft. loss
This was my first time backpacking at Mount Rainier, and my 60th backpacking trip overall since starting in 2015. I chose Berkeley Park for it’s proximity to the Sunrise area and for the many day hike options from our camp area. While I’ve camped and hiked here five times, I was excited to finally be able to spend a few nights in the backcountry.
When we arrived, it was heavily overcast and we couldn’t see the mountain except for tiny peeks through the clouds. We started on the Sourdough Ridge Trail, hiked past Frozen Lake and on to the Wonderland Trail until a junction with the Northern Loop Trail. Berkeley Park is located about 1.5 miles (and a lot of descent!) from the junction.
Day 2 – hike to Skyscraper Pass
6 miles with 1,200 ft. gain
It was cold and foggy in the morning… the overnight low was 40 degrees and the high for the day was 45 degrees. Due to the lack of views, we decided to hike to Skyscraper Pass and save the top scenic hike for the next day.
I didn’t take very many photos at the pass since views were limited. While we were at the pass, I looked for a trail that led to a saddle between Second and Third Burroughs, but there is no trail. This would determine the route we would take the next day. After taking a short break at the pass, we headed back to camp.
Day 3 – hike to Second Burroughs Mountain
6.6 miles with 1,655 ft. gain
After an even colder night with a low of 38 degrees, we woke up to clear skies, perfect for the hike up Burroughs Mountain since it’s the closest we could get to Mount Rainier on this trip.
The Burroughs include three barren peaks: First, Second and Third Burroughs. We headed back to Frozen Lake and the junction for the Burroughs trails. Since this was Saturday, we were far from alone. This hike is very close to the Sunrise area at Rainier and quite crowded with people doing day hikes. Nonetheless, it is a spectacular hike and we enjoyed meeting other hikers on the trail.
Three in our group decided to hike up to Third Burroughs while a friend and I stayed at Second to relax for a couple of hours. We chatted with several day hikers while enjoying the views. A big bonus was getting to see another group of three of our friends with permits for a different camp area about four miles from ours.
Day 4 – hike out to trailhead
4 miles with 1,200 ft. gain & 417 ft. loss
While it was sad to leave, it was time to head home so we packed up for the hike out. Since the hike in had a lot of downhill, we had to make up for that on the hike out. With much clearer skies than when we hiked in, we were able to see everything that we couldn’t on the hike in.
I absolutely loved this trip and plan to visit more of this majestic mountain in the future.