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Hiking the Pinnacle Saddle Trail On Mount Rainier

Updated on October 3, 2013

August is THE hiking month at Mount Rainier National Park. The high mountain snowpack has melted and most trails are accessible by August. The weather is usually inviting, the trails are always well-maintained by the great Park Service employees, and a wonderful adventure awaits the novice as well as skilled backpacker.

Pinnacle Saddle Trail is actually located in the Tatoosh Range directly south of the mountain. Even though this craggy line of mountains is not “on” Mount Rainer, the hikes in the Tatoosh Range offer some of the best views of Mount Rainer in the entire Park. Wildflowers are abundant and beautiful in August, and Pinnacle Saddle is a must-hike for anyone in need of the re-energizing effects of a great day hike.

A markermount rainier, wa -
Mount Rainier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington 98304, USA
get directions

How to Get There

From the west, take SR 706 into the Nisqually Entrance, then go past Longmire and turn right onto the Stevens Canyon Road. Park at Reflection Lakes and directly across from the lake you will find the trailhead.

From the south, take SR 123 past Ohanapecosh Campground, then turn onto Stevens Canyon Road.

From Enumclaw, drive 47 miles on SR 410 to the junction of SR 123. Continue until you get to Stevens Canyon Road and then on to the Reflection Lakes parking area.

Entering the Park at Nisqually Entrance
Entering the Park at Nisqually Entrance | Source
Reflection Lake parking area
Reflection Lake parking area | Source
The trailhead
The trailhead | Source

What to Bring

Hiking in August usually means shorts and a t-shirt, but experienced hikers will always tell you to bring layers in case the weather turns dicey. On the Pinnacle Saddle Trail, you are never far from the comforts of your car, but still, why be miserable if you don’t have to be? Bring a fleece pullover and maybe a rain slicker just in case.

Pinnacle Saddle is a great place for a lunch while you enjoy outstanding views. Bring a lightweight backpack, include your lunch, some basic first aid items, a change of clothes, and head on up the hill.

Many hike this trail in lightweight tennis shoes or sandals, but there is loose rock on this trail and because of that sturdy hiking boots are advised.

You might also consider hiking this trail with hiking poles. The loose gravel can be a test at times, and even in August you may find a snowfield covering part of the trail.

Other items that are a must are plenty of water, binoculars to view the wildlife, and a camera for some shots that are beyond description.

The Hike Statistics

The hike itself is 3.5 miles roundtrip and includes an elevation gain of 1150 feet. The Saddle sits at 6000 feet in elevation. A casual hike of this Trail, and taking time for rest and lunch, should take three to four hours, depending of course on your physical shape and hiking abilities.

The Pinnacle Trail

For the first half mile the trail climbs gently and takes you through some dense forest of pines and firs.

Once you leave the forest you will begin a long, steady climb up a rocky ridge, and this is where you will find difficulty if it does exist. As mentioned earlier, there are places where the rocks are loose and difficult, and there are also places where snowfields still exist well into August. Make sure you exercise caution through this section.

At about ¾ of a mile the views of the mountain behind you become spectacular and the views only improve as you finally reach the Saddle. Once you are standing on the Saddle, look behind you for one of the best views of Mount Rainier, then look ahead for a breathtaking view of the Goat Rocks Wilderness as well as Mount Adams in the distance.

Here is the perfect place for a well-deserved lunch and some casual roaming. Grab those binoculars and look for wildlife on the craggy slopes. Say hello to the jays and chipmunks who will drop by for a chat and a share of your lunch. Snap some pictures to dazzle your friends with when you get home.

There are adjoining climbing tracks that lead to Plummer Peak and Pinnacle Peak, which rise above the Saddle, but it is advised that only experienced climbers with rock climbing skills attempt these ventures. They appear to be lovely spurs to follow, and everyone always wants to go higher, but many a novice has found themselves wishing they hadn’t attempted those two peaks.

The trip back down from the Saddle is obviously less of a strain on your muscles, but your knees may not agree. Take it slow going down, especially over the rock sections. Downward momentum and loose rocks are a bad combination for casual hikers as well as the more experienced.

View to the north from trail
View to the north from trail | Source
View from Pinnacle Saddle
View from Pinnacle Saddle | Source
View from Pinnacle Saddle
View from Pinnacle Saddle | Source

The Park Services

After your hike you can enjoy the services at either Paradise or Longmire. Full services are available at both sites and the Park Service employees are incredibly friendly and helpful.

Enjoy your hike and visit! Chances are that once you visit Mount Rainier National Park you will be hooked for a lifetime!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      For my money, Washington State is the only place to be in the U.S. in August. It is pleasant while the rest of the country is in a low, rolling boil.

      Never did any serious hiking when we lived in the NW because we had three preschoolers in those days so it would have been like herding kittens. But feel like I've had a look through your eyes.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Hooray, hiking! It must be in the air, or something.

      It amuses me that you say 'by August' the snow pack has melted. We don't really have snow! In fact, I've never really lived anywhere with snow.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I have never actually visited the West Coast at all before and am born and raised a NYC girl, but this trail looks absolutely beautiful from the pictures and your description. If I ever do make out this way, I would love to go for a hike here. Thank you for writing about this and including again all the absolutely gorgeous pictures too. Have voted and shared too!!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kathleen, we were talking about that last night, how perfect the August evening was, and how the rest of the nation suffers.....thank you for stopping by!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Natasha, we had to wait until last weekend for the trails to finally lose their snow cover. That's pretty late even for us, but it was worth it. Thank you!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Sounds beautiful!! Will pop by and ask you to be my tour guide, Bill. Thanks for sharing this wonderful place.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Beautiful and interesting, Bill. Looks like a great place to check out, get some exercise and enjoy nature. Really enjoyed it. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, if you ever come out, I will be your guide. Thank you my dear; you are faithful to the extreme!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michelle, any time you need a guide, I'm your man.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Bill - This looks beautiful and we love our hiking. We are hoping to make it out west some summer and Mt. Rainier was one of the places we thought about. Beautiful hub!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, TT, in another year you can sample it yourself. Thanks Sis!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, I insist you let me know and stop by here; we will have lunch together and talk as old friends do.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Bill -

      That trip would take me three days and two cartons of cigarettes to accomplish! lol "Y'all wait up... I'll catch up .... maybe tomorrow!"

      Beautiful scenery! Great Job, my friend!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      RCrumple made me laugh...probably because he hit close to home!

      Seriously this was so informative and accompanied by such lovely pictures. So glad you decided to hike and share it with us.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Richard, I think the trick would be to stash some cigs at certain spots along the trail; that way you could light up periodically and take a smoke break. You could bribe one of the Rangers to stash the cache for you. LOL Thanks buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mary; it lacks some of the feeling I like to put in my hubs, but I am still trying to do evergreen occasionally.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      This is why I love nature and I always will. Mount Rainier Hiking must've quite an oustanding experience. Love those pics from the top of the world. Sadly, a bunch of hard headed politicians want to police the world, endangering our own environment. Thanks for the greenish hub so far!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Joseph, I simply don't have the time to write about all the things that are important to me...the environment being one of them. Thank you my friend; now, I see you have a new hub...heading there soon.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Bill,

      This trail looks awesome! I enjoyed all the pictures you took, it seems like a beautiful place! And 3.5 miles roundtrip is a decent trail. One thing standing in my way of hiking this trail, I live all the way on the other side of the US! LOL, someday, someday... Thanks for this overview of Pinnacle Saddle Trail Bill!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Nice Hub, Bill, about a place that you make so inviting. Yet another addition to my bucket list!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      rfmoran, I'm running out of paper to write my bucket list on. Sigh! Thanks buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Josh, that does make it a bit difficult for you! Excuses, Excuses! LOL Thanks nephew!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      What awesome rugged natural beauty, it's a wonderful world we've been given in trust, let's hope we will be able to pass it on to those yet to come, without too much damage.

      Beautiful and inspiring, thank you for sharing.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      tobusiness, I agree completely with your comment. We can only hope that others will take seriously the legacy that we pass on. Thank you!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Hi Bill,

      Your detailed version of Mount Rainier made me feel that I was climbing with you as well. I could breathe in the excess oxygen and could feel the head get lighter by it.

      Interesting and well written!

      voted up as interesting and sharing it across

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Morning Billy... thanks for taking us along on this great hike. Loved all the waypoints you took pictures of. I felt at home as it is the same kind of country I love... Well done my friend.

      Hugs from Canada

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Thanx for the hike, Bill. I was wondering what to do with my lunch hour today!

      Seriously, thank you for the beautiful jouney. Spectacular views!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I'm always happy when you come along. Now, back to work!

      Thanks buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rolly, this country was made for you and me! Thanks for the visit, and sending peace and hugs your way.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruchira, it had been two years since I had been on this trail, and I was sucking in a lot of oxygen for sure. :) Thank you my friend and I'm wishing you a peaceful day.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Verrryy nice. Love to hike and I know that this mountain is quite the sight. I've been to Seattle so I think I've seen it, though never climbed it. Great job on this hub !!!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Julie, if you were in Seattle then you saw this mountain. It dominates the skyline from Seattle. Glad you enjoyed the hub; thanks for following me on the trail.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      We hiked a lot when we lived in Oregon, and hike also in Arizona..you know your very favorite state. The hike sounded glorious with the beautiful scenery...You made it sound very appealing. Great hub as always Bill.......

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Carol! I need to get over that problem I have with Arizona! LOL

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      Ya know, the Pinnacle trail resonates with me. Beautiful pictures and lovely commentary - this has to be one of my favorite hubs of yours. :) Not only that, I kept thinking how much I want to hike there. One day my travels might take me to this place and for the record, I'M GLAD IT WASN'T RAINING! :D

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      No kidding! It was gorgeous! If you come I'll be your tour guide!

      Thanks lil' Sis!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I think Washington state needs to pay you for advertising it! I am ready to move there now. Seriously, the beauty of this park is astounding and would make a great vacation place. I truly would enjoy a picnic lunch while viewing the mountain range. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, I'll buy the lunch when you come to visit! Thank you my friend!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Love your different variety of hubs, this looks amazing, we don't have this sort of scenery over here in little ol' England, I wish I could get on a plane and come over! loved the photos, amazing views, nell

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, how blessed you are to live nearby, surrounded by such awesome beauty. Sounds like that is one of the places God placed there, just to give us a glimpse of what Heaven will be like, right here on Earth. Great detailed hub. Time to put on the hiking boots, but it is a bit warm here still. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nell, it is beautiful and yes, I do seem to bounce all over the place with my hubs. Don't want to ever be accused of being boring. :) Thank you my friend from little ol' England!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, the work of God's hand is all around us, but I have never felt closer to Him than on Mt. Rainier. It is majestic for sure.

      Thank you my friend. Peace and happiness always!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Excellent hub. One of my favorite places out there in Washington. We never tire of making a trip to Mount Rainier, it's just so beautiful. You are a lucky man to live in one of the most beautiful regions of the country. Love the photos. Going to vote up and share this one. Bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, thank you for the share! I knew you would be around to say howdy on this one. :) The next time you come to visit I expect notice so we can get together.

    • TravelAbout profile image

      Katheryn 4 years ago from United States

      So many states in the US I have never gotten a chance to visit. Thanks for taking me along. I used to hike six miles at least 3x's a week. Don't know if I'd make it a whole mile now. LOL

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      It must be fun to hike a mountain trail. I never have, although i would love to. Thank you for the tour..Enjoyed..

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, it is very fun....and serene.....and I love it. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Travel, you are still young. If this old foggie can make it, you can. Thanks for the visit, as always.

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Seems like a great hike. I enjoy day hiking, but do most of it out east. Someday, I would like to do more in the west, particularly the Pacific Northwest. Mount Rainer would be a great place to start.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Snow in August? I want to go just to play in snow in August after this hot summer. Every thing is different in Washington compared to NC. Thanks for the wonderful tour of your part of the country.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tammy, just in the mountains, but yes, year round we can go play in the snow. It's nice having it two hours away most of the year. :) Thanks and glad you enjoyed it!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bankscottage, it would indeed be a great place to start. I hop you make it out here some day. Thank you!

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Oh, Bill, I am behind on my reading and just getting to this now. I so want to go on this hike with you. To see the pine and the fir trees, I wish we could smell this straight out of our computer. The mountains, the range, the snow, the water, the trail, is a beauty I miss seeing.

      Florida has it's own beauty, but I grew up in the Midwest and heart and mind have cemented beauty as pine trees, with snow, oak, hills, and water.

      We have a lunch date you and I some day. And I hope it is on the Pinnacle Saddle Trail.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Truthfully, Carly, I could not live in Florida! I have been much too spoiled by this beauty and the changing seasons. I lived in Vermont for two years and that was magical as well. Thank you my dear and you name the date and we will have that lunch.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Sounds like you had a good time. Strangely, the "outdoors-man" martin disappeared as the "soccer coach and ref" martin emerged.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Martin, soccer coaches are known to be much more influential than outdoors Martins. No wonder!

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 4 years ago

      I can see why this is your favourite place to hike, it is absolutely breathtaking! I hope to get there one day soon and you and Bev can give me the guided tour. Thanks for giving me a peak into that awesome “backyard” I’ll be camping in :)) {{Hugzz}} for you my dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Trinity, book the airline tickets; we'll be waiting for you. I hope you don't think I'm kidding; I would be thrilled to show you around on a visit. Until then, as always, thank you so much....for being who you are.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub my friend;as I say many times before you have that knack of captivating your readers and here's to so many more to follow.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy my dear, thank you.....and I'm sorry you are being hassled so much by HP.....makes no sense to me....but I will follow you anywhere.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      O, wow. I felt like I was there. I have hiked some in my day but living here in the flathlands hiking is walking around the town twice a day This looks spectacular. I would so enjoy doing this. When we lived in South Dakota we did a lot of hiking out in the Black Hills.

      You have made me want to check this out. As usual, I am not disappointed when I read your writings. Have a lovely Wednesday evening, my dear Friend. ps

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      PS, you have a standing invitation! Any day, any year, when you come out here, Bev and I will buy you lunch and serve as tour guides for you. Now that, my friend, is the best deal you will get today. :)

      Thank you PS.....I greatly appreciate you!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      It would be wonderful to be able to do some hiking in the Mount Rainier National Park. Who knows...maybe someday! This is another one of your hubs linked to my latest one about the 3 national parks in Washington. You have quite a few! UUI votes and also sharing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Peggy, I think you found them all, and I thank you for it. I hope that someday you'll be able to make it up here for some hiking. You won't be disappointed. Thank you!

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