When the roads on the East side of Mt Rainier National Park open (usually in late May) until they close in the first heavy snows of fall (sometime in November), this Lower eastside trail loop hike in Mt Rainier is the perfect way to get away from crowds, and a perfect rainy day hike! It also includes two gorgeous waterfalls and a grove of trees that are more than a thousand years old! The only thing you’ll miss on this hike are views of the mountain, but don’t miss out on this chance to catch Mt Rainier National Park‘s amazing other features, waterfalls and forests! This is a mellow hike with around 300 feet of elevation gain (and loss), covering about 5 miles. Don’t worry too much about not seeing the mountain on the hike, because you’ll see it plenty (if it’s out) on the drive, and you could add a 20 minute detour to Chinook Pass for incredible views of the mountain if it’s out.
Is the Lower Eastside Trail Loop Hike Right for me?
The loop described below has about 300 feet of elevation gain and covers about 5 miles and is at the south end of the Eastside Trail (you can also do this as a one way 9 mile trip which includes even more waterfalls and old growth forests). The important thing to know about this trail is that it does NOT have any views of Mt Rainier. It does have gorgeous forests, stunning waterfalls and solitude on the trail (except at the trailhead and on the Grove of the Patriarchs loop). It’s also closer to Seattle than Paradise, the trailhead takes about two hours to get to from South Seattle. This area of the park doesn’t have any services so it’s important to bring your food and water with you.
When is a good time for the Lower Eastside trail loop hike?
An important thing about timing is that the road needs to be open! From Seattle or Tacoma you’ll want to take Hwy 410 and then 123 (Cayuse Pass), and typically these roads open in late May. Follow the link at the beginning of the post for current road status. The road is open until the first heavy snowfalls which typically occur sometime in November. This trail is an especially good choice on rainy days or in May and June when the waterfalls are really roaring from all the snowmelt.
Where is the Eastside Trail?
This trail is in Mt Rainier National Park and the route I describe here starts at the Grove of the Patriarchs Trailhead just inside the Stevens Canyon Entrance. From Seattle or Tacoma, head to Enumclaw and continue on Highway 410 to Cayuse pass and go right (more like straight, definitely not left) onto Hwy 123. Turn right where signed for the park entrance (you will pass the turn to Sunrise/White River entrance earlier in the route). You’ll enter the park and find the Grove of the Patriarchs trailhead immediately on the right. The parking lot is fairly small and can be congested. Don’t be deterred by all the people at the trailhead! There are picnic tables and restrooms here.
This description is a loop hike (actually, it’s three separate loops) on a series of different trails. A map is important to keep track of where you are and which way you want to go! All three of these loops combined are a mostly flat (with a few minor hills) and add up to about 5 miles.
Loop #1: Trailhead to Ollalie Falls
Start on the trail behind the restrooms following along the river. In about half a mile, you’ll come to a junction where the crowds (and larger trail) go down and to the right, you will go to the left. Now you’ll have solitude and some very gentle rolling until you meet a sturdy log bridge at Ollalie Falls. This is about a mile and a half from the trailhead. The trail continues on but for this route you will turn around here (after getting you fill of the waterfall!). When you return, when you reach the junction where you went left on the way out, you will go down and to the left to Grove of the Patriarchs.
Loop #2: Grove of the Patriarchs
This is the part that is likely to be crowded but these ancient trees are totally worth it!! Head down to the river and across a fun suspension bridge and then follow a half mile trail in a lollipop loop through the mighty Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar grove featuring many trees over a thousand years old! Complete the loop by returning to the trail junction and go left, back towards the parking lot. You’ll be at the parking lot and restrooms in half a mile.
Loop #3: Silver Falls
If you’re up for a little more walking and another stunning waterfall (my favorite waterfall in Washington State!), add the one and a half mile loop to Silver Falls. To do this, continue on the Eastside trail after passing the restrooms and parking lot. Cross the highway, then continue along until you come to the overlook for Silver Falls (spur trail with a sign). If you’ve come this far, you must continue a very short distance to another bridge over the Ohanapecosh River with a different angle on spectacular Silver Falls and a narrow canyon downstream from it. The trail again continues on the other side of the bridge (to the Ohanapecosh campground in a mile and a half), but to follow this route, turn around here and return on the trail the way you came to the Grove of the Patriarchs trailhead.