Secret Rainier | Copper and Iron Peaks

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, Mickey Eisenberg, Gene Yore, and Steve McClure bring you beta on two beautiful peaks in Mount Rainier National Park.
Gene Yore Gene Yore
Mountaineers Leader
May 14, 2019
Secret Rainier | Copper and Iron Peaks
By Mickey Eisenberg, Gene Yore, and Steve McClure

Mount Rainier National Park has over 100 climbable peaks (not counting Mount Rainier itself) either within or immediately adjacent to the Park boundary, and most are seldom visited and underappreciated. In this sense they are “secrets” and worthy of being featured in this Secret Rainier series, where we outline the benefits of these 76 scrambles, 15 hikes, and nine climbs. In this issue of Secret Rainier, we describe Copper and Iron Mountains. These two gems in the park require an arduous day but are well worth it.

Copper Mountain and Iron Mountain are usually combined as they are very close to one another, adding just 0.6 miles to do both. These peaks are in a beautiful part of the park and have spectacular views of Rainier. Indian Henrys Hunting Ground (the takeoff point for both peaks) is about 5.5 miles (one-way) from the trailhead, making for a long day, especially if you climb both peaks.


Directions: From the Nisqually Entrance, drive approximately 3 miles to the Kautz Creek parking area located on the south side of the road.

Route: From the Kautz Creek trailhead (elevation 2400'), head north toward Indian Henrys Hunting Ground until you reach the ranger’s summer cabin in 5.5 miles. From the cabin, head in an easterly direction. Find a footpath near the outhouse behind the cabin. This path is soon lost, but game trails will help. Gain the saddle between Iron and Copper, with Iron to the south and Copper to the north. Both peaks have flat summits. The route to Copper heads up a fairly obvious gully just west of the ridge leading to the peak. To reach Iron, from the saddle head south and drop below rocky outcroppings until you are past the largest of the rock formations, then head upward through a gully. The summit is surprisingly flat and expansive. Of the two peaks, Iron has slightly more summit-finding challenges.

Comments: Flowers are quite spectacular in mid- to late-summer. Pyramid Peak is in the neighborhood, as is Ararat; however, Iron and Copper are “plenty of mountain” for a day. If there is enough daylight, a worthwhile short side trip from Indian Henrys Hunting Ground is to Mirror Lakes - a very photogenic lake with Rainier reflecting in the usually mirror-like water.

Copper Mountain was probably named for planned or actual mining activity in the area. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were great hopes that gold, silver, copper, and iron would be found.

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Want to learn more? Guide to 100 Peaks at Mount Rainier National Park is available as an enhanced iBook for the iPad on iTunes and in tablet eBook and smartphone eBook by Mountaineers Books.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2018 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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