Plummer Peak, Washington
Alice and I did this light hike a week after our Lake Serene trip. I hadn't quite had my fill of mountains by that point and based on the picture in the 100 Classic Hikes in Washington book, the views of Mount Rainier would be spectacular. As you can see from our own photos, we were definitely not disappointed.
Mount Rainier is a giant mountain. It's impossible to get a sense of the size of this mountain based on pictures alone. I knew what kind of views I was in for on the flight in to Seattle, when all we could see out our window was the enormous "mound" of Mount Rainier rising high into the sky, level with the planes altitude. It was an incredible site from within the jet, but at ground level, only a few miles away, it was majestic and humbling.
Though still recovering from my blisters, the level of difficulty for this trail was easy on my feet. It helps that the trailhead parking area is at 4900 feet! Anyway, it was a very nice climb up this trail with plenty of views to take in all around us (besides the rising giant at our back). At one point the trail crossed a steep hillside covered in snow where some people were being taught how to stop themselves in a slide with their ice axes. It was at this slippery, crowded and narrow section of the trail that we witnessed an amazing sight. Directly in front of us, making their way back down the trail, was an elderly couple. These two, with their walking sticks, must have been in their high 80's. To be honest, their slow, measured steps in the angled snow and ice had me a bit worried. One slip of the foot and they would be sliding down the hillside like all the other students, only they wouldn't be stopping! In the end, my worry was for nothing, and as Alice later pointed out, for all I knew these two had been climbing their entire lives and were as sure footed as the rest of us. I must say, looking back on it now with a little more "experience" with the aging process (ie; arthritis!), it is quite impressive that those two were up there not letting anything stop them... not even the threat of slipping off a hillside!
It didn't take too long to reach Pinnacle Saddle and take in another beautiful view of the valley to the south. Far in the distance could be seen the snowy peak of Mount Adams, yet another mountain I would love to climb but probably never will! At this point we followed a trail up towards Plummer Peak, crossing a snowfield on the way to the summit. It was a very easy and leisurely hike up to the summit, where we took a pause for lunch, pictures and the obligatory collection of a single stone to remember this mountain by.
It's impossible to describe the views atop this peak. In every direction you look the sights you behold are all breathtaking. You are dwarfed by the mountains from one view, then from another feel like a bird floating above the valleys and ridges below. Of all the places I have hiked, I would have to say this had some of the best views yet, but what do you expect when you have a mountain like Rainier in view at every moment? But don't get me wrong, it's not just the view of Rainier that does it... the whole scene is just incredible. Only problem here is, the ease of the hike makes you feel like you haven't earned the views. Oh well, I'll take it!
Distance: 2.8 miles roundtrip
Time: 2-3 hour trip
Elevation Gain: 1470 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 4900 feet
Plummer Peak elevation: 6370 feet
GPS Coordinates: 46° 45' 12"N, 121° 44' 20"W (WGS84/NAD83) Topozone map.
Washington Trails Association information on Pinnacle Saddle (driving directions, trail conditions, stats, etc.). The WTA doesn't have info directly for Plummer Peak, but the trail for Pinnacle Saddle will lead you there. Once on the saddle ridgeline you head West (right) towards Plummer Peak.