Secret Rainier: A Comet, a Park, and a Point

Longtime Mountaineers trip leaders, Gene Yore, Mickey Eisenberg and Steve McClure call the hidden gems of Mount Rainier National Park “Our Secret Rainier.” This feature is part of a periodic installment on these unique and hard-to-find gems in the park.
Placeholder Contact Profile Mickey Eisenberg
August 16, 2016
by Mickey Eisenberg, Gene Yore, and Steve McClure

Comet Falls 

Many visitors to Rainier have visited Comet Falls - one of the more impressive falls in the park. If you haven’t been there, we highly recommend a visit. And continuing farther up the trail leads to two lesser-traveled spectacular places within the park.

Van Trump Park

One of these is Van Trump Park, one of ten named “parks” within the National Park (the others are Grand, Moraine, Vernal, St. Andrew, Berkeley, Seattle, Cowlitz, Mist, and Green). The term park is meant to convey a grassy, relatively large flat area profuse with wild flowers in the summer. Each of the ten is worth a visit. Van Trump Park is named after P. B. Van Trump who along with Hazard Stevens made the first ascent of Mount Rainier in 1870.

Mildred Point

Another mile of modest hiking leads to the spectacular Mildred Point. There is a trail and well-worn foot patch leading directly to the destination. Mildred Point has a “take your breath away” view of several glaciers on the SSE flank of the mountain. 

 

Driving Directions: From the Nisqually park entrance drive 10.1 miles east then northeast to the Comet Falls trailhead. Parking is on the left side of the road.  

Route Descriptions

Route Description to Comet Falls: From the trail head, hike north 1.8 miles to Comet Falls. Note: It’s possible to leave the trail and hike reasonably close to the bottom of the falls. 

Continuing on to Van Trump Park: Continue on the trail half a mile past Comet Falls to a trail on the right (heading north), elevation 5500 feet. This trail is well maintained for the first half-mile and remains decent for another mile.  Flowers abound in summer. Continue heading north through Van Trump Park though the trail will become obscure as you progress northerly. Continue hiking until either snow conditions or fatigue lead you to turn around. The route through Van Trump Park heads in the direction of Camp Hazard (11,400 feet), which is on the Kautz Glacier climbing route to the summit of Rainier.  

And on to Mildred Point: Continue past the turn off to Van Trump Park and descend approximately 200 feet southwest to Van Trump Creek. Cross the creek and continue SW until reaching a fork in the trail (5400 feet). Turn right at the sign and continue to Mildred Point (5950 feet). The distance from the Van Trump Park turn-off to Mildred Point is 1.1 miles. Mildred Point is a great spot for lunch and mountain gazing.

Driving Directions: From the Nisqually Park entrance drive 10.1 miles east then northeast to the Comet Falls trailhead.  Parking is on the left side of the road.  

Comet Falls

VanTrump Park

Mildred Point

Skill

easy hike

moderate hike

moderate hike

Beauty

wow!

alpine meadows

wow!

Effort

2 (out of 10)

3+ (out of 10)

3 (out of 10)

Distance RT

3.6 miles 

5.6 miles

7 miles

Elevation

800 feet

3,000 feet

2,900 feet

Time RT

3 hours

6 hours

6 hours

Season

late spring - fall

summer

late spring/summer

Equipment

hiking gear

hiking gear

hiking gear

 

Want to learn more?

In addition to the 14,411-foot summit, Mount Rainier National Park has over 100 other climbable peaks. While most are scrambles (and a few are climbs), there are 15 peaks that are reachable as hikes. Route descriptions, tracks, and maps are provided in Guide to 100 Peaks at Mount Rainier National Park, available as an enhanced iBook for the iPad on iTunes and in tablet eBook and smartphone eBook  by Mountaineers Books

The Rainier 100 has become a favorite among Mountaineer peak baggers who will be gathering for their fourth annual celebration on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at 6pm at the Seattle Program Center.


This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Wed, Aug 17, 2016 8:52 AM

I can't wait to get my knees replaced so I can do some of these hikes! I'm hopeful that by next year, I can enjoy them!

Joan Miller
Joan Miller says:
Sat, Aug 20, 2016 1:01 PM

I have a question about the difficulty rating of the Comet Falls hike! The article authors say "easy hike" but when I check the Mountaineers Books "Day Hiking, Mount Rainier," I find it rated a #4, which means "difficult" according to that book. I rely on ratings to choose a hike. How can these two sources differ so much?