Pinnacle Peak
(Mt. Rainier National Park)

Trail Highlights:Mountain and panoramic views; wildflowers
Round-trip Distance:2.50 miles / 4.00 km
Location:Mt. Rainier National Park - Paradise Area, Washington South Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Nisqually, Mishalpam (Upper Nisqually), and Taidnapam (Upper Cowlitz)
Directions:From the southwest (Nisqually) entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park:
  • Eastbound on State Route 706 (on some maps shown as National Park Highway), enter Mt. Rainier National Park just east of Ashford, Washington
  • Continue into the park onto Paradise Road (on some maps shown as The Road to Paradise) and proceed 15.00 miles / 24.10 km to Stevens Canyon Road
  • Turn right onto Stevens Canyon Road and proceed 1.50 miles / 2.40 km to the parking area on the left at Reflection Lakes
  • Directions to Other Trailheads
    Required Pass:National park pass or equivalent for national parks and federal recreational lands
    Additional Trail Info:U.S. National Park Service
    Washington Trails Association
    Note:This page profiles the trail on Mt. Rainier National Park's Pinnacle Peak, rather than the trails on the King County, Washington mountain known by various names including "Pinnacle Peak".

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    Pinnacle Peak glows in a summer sunset. The Pinnacle Peak Trail is visible angling toward the saddle on the right of this photo. Paradise Inn, Mt. Rainier National Park,
    August 16, 2023.

    Don’t be fooled by its short distance — the Pinnacle Peak Trail more than makes up for its brevity with stunning views and decent elevation gain over its consistent climb. Pinnacle Peak is one of several summits along the Tatoosh Range, which borders Mt. Rainier National Park’s Paradise area. Set against the peak’s beetling ramparts, the view keeps getting bigger and bigger as the trail clears the treeline, offering one of the most expansive prospects of Mt. Rainier in the park. Sometimes called the Pinnacle Saddle Trail, the track does not reach the summit, but rather crosses Pinnacle Peak’s northwestern flank and ends at the gap between Pinnacle and Plummer peaks, where it opens to a completely different vista in the opposite direction. On a clear day, the southern horizon encompasses three other Cascade mountain volcanoes: Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens. In addition to the panoramic views, a host of summer wildflowers adds up-close interest to the wayside.

    The trail becomes stony as it attains alpine heights. Although it is well maintained, hikers should be prepared with trekking gear of their choice for rocky terrain. Not surprisingly, it is popular with park visitors, although weekday hikes are comfortable. If greater distance is desired, consider combining the climb with part or all of the Lakes or High Lakes trails or a jaunt to Louise Lake just off the Lakes/Wonderland Trail near the trailhead parking area. From the saddle, boot paths branch to the summits of Pinnacle and Plummer peaks. Should you choose to proceed beyond the maintained trail, exercise caution and be confident in your route-finding and rock-scrambling skills. However you choose to enjoy this park gem, you’ll have opportunity for spectacular views. (Weather permitting, of course!)

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    At lower elevations, the trail climbs through patchy, mostly coniferous forest. Pinnacle Peak Trail, August 14, 2023.
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    The way continues through increasingly rocky terrain to the saddle’s notch beneath the very eaves of Pinnacle Peak’s summit. Neighboring Plummer Peak rises on the other side of the saddle. Pinnacle Peak Trail, August 14, 2023.
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    A sampling of Pinnacle Peak’s wayside wildflowers includes, top row, left to right, sidebells (Orthilia secunda), arrowleaf groundsels (Senecio triangularis), lovage (Ligusticum sp.), common harebells (Campanula rotundifolia), Sitka valerians (Valeriana sitchensis), and partridgefoots (Luetkea pectinata); center row, wandering daisies (Erigeron glacialis), mountain gentians (Gentiana calycosa), subalpine spiraea (Spiraea splendens), sickletop louseworts (Pedicularis racemosa), fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium syn. Chamerion angustifolium), and broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius); and bottom row, alpine, or, American bistorts (Bistorta bistortoides), mountain, or, magenta paintbrushes (Castilleja parviflora var. parviflora), pink mountain-heath (Phyllodoce empetriformis), Cascade asters (Eucephallus ledophyllus), green corn lilies (Vertrum viride), and scarlet paintbrushes (Castilleja miniata). Pinnacle Peak Trail, August 14, 2023.
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    Plummer Peak rises from the opposite end of the saddle from Pinnacle Peak. On a clear day, look for Mt. St. Helens’ cratered peak on the horizon to the left of Plummer Peak. Pinnacle Peak Trail, August 14, 2023.
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    Mt. Adams crowns the saddle’s sweeping southern view. Pinnacle Peak Trail, August 14, 2023.
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    Pinnacle Peak affords one of the most expansive views of Mt. Rainier in the park. Don’t forget to look back at the view behind you as you climb! Pinnacle Peak Trail, August 14, 2023.

    © 2023-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.

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