Carbon River (Rainforest Loop, Old Mine, Green Lake, Chenuis Falls, and Ipsut Falls)
Old-growth rainforest; waterfalls; lake views; historic context
0.30 miles / 0.50 km (Rainforest Loop only) 3.00 miles / 4.80 km (Old Mine only) 7.40 miles / 11.90 km (Chenuis Falls only) 9.60 miles / 15.45 km (Green Lake only) 10.80 miles / 17.40 km (Ipsut Falls only)
From State Route 410 in Buckley, Washington, turn right from eastbound/left from westbound onto State Route 165
Between Mileposts 11 and 10, bear left at the fork onto the Carbon River Road where indicated by signage
Proceed approximately 8.00 miles/13.00 km to the parking lot at the park entrance (Note that the park entrance and parking lot are over 2.00 miles/3.20 km beyond the ranger station and its parking lot beside the Carbon River Road)
The Carbon River Trail accesses one of Mt. Rainier National Park’s lesser known wonders: the only rainforest within the park and one of the last stands of old-growth inland rainforest in the Pacific Northwest. Although temperate rainforests are common along the coast where precipitation is most abundant, the Carbon River Valley’s unique geography and weather patterns create conditions that sustain a rainforest at the very foot of Mt. Rainier. Many of its venerable giants have stood for near a thousand years. Wander amid their shadowy columns and explore side trails to several features along the way, including an interpretive boardwalk loop, an old mine shaft, a gem-tinted lake, and thundering waterfalls. Here and there, marvel at how the river’s capricious roving alters the surrounding landscape when its waters run high. Other than the occasionally passing hiker or biker, little else breaks the woodland hush but the twittering of birds and river’s meandering murmur. Do be aware of your surroundings and prepared to encounter bears and other wildlife that are at home here and throughout the park. (Information about wildlife safety can be found on this site’s “Resources” page under “Safety and Preparation.”)
The main trail is the remnant of a gravel road that, at one time, provided vehicle access from the park’s northwestern corner to the Ipsut Creek Campground and the Carbon Glacier from which the river is born. However, the river’s extensive flooding over the years repeatedly washed out portions of the road, rendering it too costly to maintain other than for foot-powered traffic. The road is now closed to vehicle use beyond the park boundary, offering several hiking options of various lengths and levels of difficulty. Although bikes are not permitted on the side trails or beyond the campground, the Park Service has installed convenient bike racks along the way to facilitate quicker access to those wayside features. Given the number of side trails that may be hiked singly or in combination from the main trailhead, the round-trip distances above are given for each individually. Just beyond the campground, the trail joins the park’s Wonderland Trail that circles Mt. Rainier, providing access to points beyond, including the Carbon Glacier, Tolmie Peak, Eunice Lake, and Mowich Lake. To plan your hike, be sure to print or download the park trail map at the “Additional Trail Info” link above.