Trail side Scrambles in Mt. Rainier National Park

With the days getting short and weather becoming unstable it was time for the annual easy peak bagging trip in Mount Rainier National Park. I arrived at the Kautz Creek Trailhead at about 10:30 AM for anything but an alpine start. The agenda included a 5.7 mile hike from the Kautz Creek Trailhead to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground then the summits of Iron Mountain and Copper Mountain and an ascent of Mount Ararat on the return. None of the summits are really note worthy but it was a day in the mountains.

Leaving Tacoma in the fog around 9:00 AM I was happy to find late morning sunshine on a weather transition day. The Kautz Creek Trail is relatively flat at its beginning and end in Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground were it reaches a junction with the Wonderland Trail at 5.7 miles. The high point of the trail is c.5600 feet about a quarter of a mile before reaching Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground and the junction with the Wonderland Trail (c.5300). The middle portion of the trail is frequently steep by National Park trail standards.

I turned south at the junction and followed the Wonderland Trail for about a quarter of a mile before heading cross country in a northeasterly direction. Hiking through open forest and huckleberry bushes I passed a deer that was less than concerned with my presence and continued to the saddle between Iron and Copper Mountains. Iron was the first on my list and can be reached by following the ridge or just to the right of it. A goat trail takes the path of least resistance (some moderately steep grass, a few scrub trees and at best class 2) to the plateau summit area. Looking over toward Copper Mountain I could see 3 of the path builders grazing near the summit.

After descending to the saddle I made a traverse to a steep grassy slope then cut back to the right into trees were I found a steep goat path that led up to a flat area below the summit of Copper Mountain. The goats I had spotted earlier were still there but didn’t stick around to have their photo taken but my brief glimpse of them from close up revealed that they were wearing their puffy winter coats.

Mount Rainier with Pyramid Peak, Copper Mountain and Iron Mountain in foreground

Returning to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground I followed the Kautz Creek Trail to its highpoint were it traverses below the summit of Mount Ararat. Mount Ararat is also the name of a mountain in Turkey where Noah’s Ark allegedly ran aground. I found no ark on this Mount Ararat either. The summit is a short hike from the trail and lacks a well defined summit point but somehow made the list of scrambles in the Mountaineers Pin Award list for this area… don’t ask me how. To shorten the return I made a descending traverse to the SE through mostly open grass slopes to rejoin the trail and was back at the trailhead by a quarter to five.

Mount Ararat from the Kautz Creek Trail

Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 1, 2nd Edition; Fred Beckey