Paul Peak

A hike, a snowshoe, or a scramble. It's a 5.6 mile round trip snowshoe with 1,800 feet of elevation gain in winter to the summit of Paul Peak, a 6.2 mile round trip day hike in summer to the intersection with the Wonderland Trail. The trail is through old growth forest throughout and is a less crowded alternative in Mount Rainier National Park.

getting there

From Enumclaw drive 5 miles west on State Route 410 to the small town of Buckley and, on the west end of town, turn left (south) onto SR 165. Continue 10 miles through the communities of Carbonado and Wilkeson before crossing the one-lane bridge over the deep Fairfax Gorge on the Carbon River. Just beyond the bridge, turn right onto Mowich Lake Road, Forest Road 79, a narrow road that climbs through a clearcut slope. Drive 11 miles to the Mowich Lake entrance to Mount Rainier National Park (3,700 ft).

In winter you may need to park long the road and walk to the trailhead. If so, please be sure to leave the roadway clear so that other vehicles can pass and turn around safely.

on the trail

6.2 miles with 900 feet of elevation gain, 3,700 ft high point

Hike the Paul Peak Trail. It goes through old growth forest and has  views of the northwest face of Mount Rainier and the south fork of the Mowich River. This trail is less crowded than many of the others in the Park. Though the trail officially ends at the intersection with the Wonderland Trail, but you can extend your hike by going either direction on the Wonderland Trail.

Scramble Route

3.2 miles round trip with 1,600 feet of elevation gain, 4,800 ft high point

From the Paul Peak trailhead, descend and cross Meadow Creek and continue on the trail to the southwest ridge of Paul Peak. Leave the trail here and ascend off-trail on the ridge on a bearing of ~70°. There are a lot of downed trees, but they are easy to cross or walk around. Travel up the ridge, staying on the best terrain. At 4,400 ft there is a small cliff that is best passed on the left. At just over 4,700 ft (when the northwest ridge is reached), follow a bearing of 110° to reach Paul Peak.

snowshoe Route

5.6 miles round trip with 1,800 feet of elevation gain, 4,800 ft high point

Start at the Paul Peak trailhead, descend 300 feet and cross Meadow Creek.  After trail turns east, head up and north or northwest then tun right to follow the southwest ridge to the summit (4,820 ft). 

Extend your trip by walking from Paul Peak to Elizabeth Ridge (5,500 ft). From Elizabeth Ridge, descend to Mowich Lake, and return via the Grindstone Trail and Mowich Lake road to the starting point. It's a total of 7 miles and 2,300 feet of elevation gain.

See Snowshoe Routes Washington, 2nd ed by Dan A. Nelson (Mountaineers Books 2003).

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 5.6 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft
  • 4,800 ft
  • Land Manager: Mount Rainier National Park
  • Parking Permit Required: National Park Entrance Fee
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • USGS Golden Lakes
  • Green Trails Mt Rainier West No. 269
  • Trails Illustrated Mount Rainier National Park
  • Green Trails Mount Rainier Wonderland No. 269SX
Trip Reports

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Paul Peak Trail
  • Paul Peak & Elizabeth Ridge

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