Mount Rainier National Park: White River Campground & Glacier Basin / Emmons Moraine Trail

Days 49-50 (September 16-17)
Mount Rainier National Park – White River Campground | Glacier Basin to Emmons Moraine Trail

After our first trip to Mount Rainier camping and hiking in Ohanapecosh area, we made plans to circle back around and spend few more nights in this amazing park, choosing the eastern side of the park for it’s easier access this time of year and close proximity to the glacier-covered mountain.

The beautiful drive via Mather Memorial Parkway (named for Stephen T. Mather – first director of the National Park Service) provides views of the aptly named White River, whose color is attributed to minerals from the mountains.

White River, along the Mather Memorial parkway in Washington

This time of year we arrive to find the White River Campground practically empty, with the exception of the small sites that overlook the river. We choose a primo site in loop C, nestled under the tall trees.

One thing to note about this campground: There is no hot water, which is not uncommon for a national park campground, but there is also no power, which means no lights in the bathrooms.

Camping under the tall trees in White River Campgound in Mount Ranier National Park

Our late afternoon arrival allows us just enough time to set up camp and take a quick hike. The Glacier Basin trailhead is conveniently at the opposite end of the campground.

The moderate Glacier Basin trail is a nice soft trail under the foot for the first mile, then as we approach our turn off, the trail has a few rocks and roots. We are hiking a gradual incline through beautiful tall hemlock and cedar forest.

Waterfall along the Glacier Basin Trail in Mount Ranier National Park

The trail leads one past or over about a dozen small waterfalls tumbling down the mountainside.


We do not have enough daylight to hike the full 8.3 mile (out-and-back) length of the Glacier Basin trail, so we instead take the half-mile side trail to Emmons Moraine.

To our disappointment, Mount Rainier is again hidden behind the clouds.

The White River Emmons Morraine trail Mount Ranier National Park

We cross the White River via a small footbridge, and up the moraine to overlook a glacial lake and valley.

Glacial Lake, Emmons Morraine Trail in Mount Rainier National Park

The maintained trail ends, however a short path continues along the ridge, which runs parallel to the river valley on one side and the glacial valley on the other.

Ridge paralleling Emmons Morraine in Mount Ranier National Park

See the (tiny looking from this distance) holes in the glacial valley where it rises to meet the foot of Mount Rainer? Those are openings to old mines. The Emmons Glacier – the largest of Mount Rainier’s 24 named glaciers – is the source of the White River, which appears to be flowing out of the mountain here.

White River flowing through Emmons Morraine. Mount Ranier hiding behind the clouds.

Here is Robert retracing our footsteps, hiking back down the moraine, approaching the White River crossing.

Hiking back down the Emmons Morraine about to cross the White River in Mount Rainier National Park.

Another gorgeous waterfall! I can only imagine how impressive the waterfalls and White River volume are once the rainy season is in full swing. We are enjoying this trail immensely, even without views of Mount Rainier. Our Glacier Basin/Emmons Moraine hike ends up being about 3 1/2 miles.

Waterfall along the Glacier Basin Trail in Mount Ranier National Park

Our last quarter mile on the trial, a light rain begins to fall. We cook a quick dinner in the drizzle and crawl into the tent early, wishing for sunny skies tomorrow, as we still have not been able to see any of the “big” (volcanic) mountains during our 3 weeks so far in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Rainer's glacier covered peak finally showing itself on a sunny day

After a cold, wet night, we are thrilled to wake up to sunny, blue skies. We can finally see Mount Rainier! And so begins one of my very favorite days ever…

You can catch up on all of our Washington State travels here.

See the complete list of parks we’ve visited  here.



6 Replies to “Mount Rainier National Park: White River Campground & Glacier Basin / Emmons Moraine Trail”

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I heartily encourage you to go. Early autumn is a great time to go if you’d like to miss the crowds. One could easily spend a week just exploring the eastern side of the park. I dream of backpacking the Wonderland trail (which circles the base of Mount Rainier) one day.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fantastic photos of Mount Rainier environs, Marsi. I love Mount Rainier…even though most of the time you can’t really see it. You did a great job of highlighting the awe and beauty of this incredible place.

    Liked by 1 person

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