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Trip Report    

Backpack - Grand Park (Mount Rainier)

Grand tour of Grand Park and Berkeley Park, spending the night at Berkeley Park Camp. Perfect weather and good company. Some bugs around Lake Eleanor.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Hiking route in great shape the whole way except for a few muddy patches along the leg between Grand Park and the out-of-park "back door" trailhead.  The forest service road is generally in good shape but with large potholes in several locations, which were no problem for high clearance vehicles but significantly slowed the progress of normal-clearance vehicles.  One rock slide partially blocks the road but is easily passable. Berkeley Park Camp is also in good shape, with bear poles up and the privy open for the season and in pleasant condition.

We met at the USFS Ranger Station in Enumclaw in order to caravan to the trailhead, which is at the end of a long unpaved road without cell coverage.  The leg along the FS road took longer than expected, and we arrived about 10 minutes late for our planned 8:30am start time.  There were already cars parked along the road, but we were able to find spaces to park our 6 vehicles without much trouble.    Many additional vehicles arrived while we were gearing up, and we were glad that we had not started any later.  Suggest that future weekend parties plan departures no later than 8:30am, at least during the COVID rush we are experiencing now.

The hike through Grand Park to Berkeley Park Camp was uneventful but beautiful.  The bugs around Lake Eleanor were bad and there were some muddy spots on the trail, but those were minor issues.  We were fortunate to experience peak wildflower bloom everywhere we went.  We encountered other people on the trail of course, but it was nowhere near as crowded as we had expected given the perfect weather and peak flower blooms.  Almost everyone had masks and made space as we passed. 

Note there is a new NPS rule for COVID: the largest party has right of way.  This minimizes flower damage because only the smaller group has to step off trail.

We arrived at camp just after noon, and after a lunch break set about setting up camp.  The group site at Berkeley Park Camp has only 5 tent sites, so we positioned one tent in the unused non-group site (site #1) next to ours.  The kitchen area at the group site was not large enough for 6 people with social distance, but the non-group site next door had a huge cook area that was plenty large for 6, which we used for the entire weekend because the site was unoccupied.

After setting up camp we set out to explore Berkeley Park, and headed all the way up the valley along the Northern Loop Trail the point where it intersects the Wonderland Trail.  Beautiful peak bloom flowers were everywhere as were sparkling streams and a particularly good looking reddish-brown black bear who blocked the trail for a while.  We happily watched the bear for about 20 minutes until he had wandered far enough off-trail that we felt it OK to move forward again.  Toward the top of the trail there were several marmot sightings.  We also heard several pika cries but didn't see them.

After returning to camp, dinner was pleasant but uneventful.  Thanks to the large kitchen area we were all able to eat together while maintaining distance and sharing stories.  The night and morning were also pleasant and uneventful, with clear skies, pleasant temperatures, and a small breeze in the morning.  As a group we had decided the night before to leave camp at 8:15am in order to still have the morning light as as passed back through Grand Park, which we did.

As we approached Lake Eleanor the bugs and the crowds returned, but neither were too bad.  We arrived back at the cars at noon, thus ending a short but very pleasant trip.