Glacier Basin, Glacier Basin Trailhead, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Glacier Basin - 6.2 miles

Glacier Basin Trailhead

Heading through Glacier Basin to the base of Inter Glacier

Heading through Glacier Basin to the base of Inter Glacier

Round-Trip Length: 6.2 miles (unmaintained trail continues to base of Inter Glacier)
Start-End Elevation: 4,315' - 5,945' (5,945' @ End of Maintained Trail sign)
Elevation Change: +1,630' net elevation gain (+1,706' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Glacier Basin - 6.2 Miles Round-Trip

Glacier Basin (5,945') is located 3.1 miles from Glacier Basin Campground in Mount Rainier National Park. This moderate trail follows an old mining road through mid-elevation forests into subalpine meadows at the base of Inter Glacier, one of two standard climbing routes on Rainier.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The meadows feature big valley views, prolific flowers, easy access to the cobbled creek channel of Inter Fork, several campsites and active wildlife.

Though the trail officially ends at Glacier Basin Camp, a well-defined path continues .75 miles to the base of the glacier. Note that hiking on the glacier can be hazardous - only experienced and equipped climbers should travel beyond this point:

The trail heads west on a mild grade over Inter Fork, which joins the White River near the campground. It moves fast in a nondescript forest to panoramas of Rainier, Goat Island Mt and the White River just before reaching the Emmons Moraine Trail split (1.05 miles : 4,845'). 

This is a compelling side trip with views of Emmons Glacier, which forms the White River and has the largest area of any glacier in the lower 48. The GBT continues through intervals of timber and clearings along the creek to the Burroughs Mountain Trail split (2.55 miles : 5,515').

Here grades steepen across open, flower-covered slopes to Glacier Basin Camp (3.05 miles). Pass through several campsites to the End of Maintained Trail sign on the edge of Glacier Basin (3.1 miles : 5,945'). The trail - which despite its designation is very well defined - leads into expansive subalpine meadows with terrific views of the upper valley.

Social trails branch down to Inter Fork, a wide cobbled creek channel formed by Inter Glacier. The main trail, which braids in several places but favors high banks over the creek, rises sharply into the upper valley.

It scales a steep narrow ridge (The Wedge) high over the creek (3.5 miles : 6,252'), which can be precarious with snow cover. Once off the ridge grades moderate into a moonscape of scattered boulders and streams at the base of Inter Glacier (3.75 miles : 6,650').

Inter Glacier is classified as a cirque glacier, a smaller type which forms in bowl-shaped basins at the head of a valley. Cirque glaciers are usually remnants of much larger valley glaciers, such as Carbon, Emmons and Nisqually.

The subalpine and alpine meadows of Glacier Basin are very fragile and have a short growing season - remain on designated trails and existing paths to minimize impact.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N46 54.093 W121 38.752 — 0.0 miles : Glacier Basin Trailhead
  • N46 54.062 W121 39.361 — .5 miles : Fast, mild grade climb
  • N46 54.001 W121 39.919 — 1.05 miles : Emmons Moraine Trail split
  • N46 53.943 W121 40.373 — 1.5 miles : Steady climb crossed by several streams
  • N46 53.803 W121 40.909 — 2.0 miles : Steady climb with partial views
  • N46 53.670 W121 41.542 — 2.5 miles : Burroughs Mountain Trail split
  • N46 53.491 W121 41.884 — 2.8 miles : Steep climb into subalpine forest
  • N46 53.336 W121 42.039 — 3.05 miles : Enter Glacier Basin Camp
  • N46 53.332 W121 42.101 — 3.1 miles : End of Maintained Trail sign
  • N46 53.293 W121 42.532 — 3.5 miles : Steep climb up narrow wedge over creek
  • N46 53.302 W121 42.941 — 3.75 miles : Base of Inter Glacier

Worth Noting

  • The Glacier Basin Trail follows the path of an old wagon road used to mine copper in the late 1800s and earl 1900s. The mine produced little ore and was soon abandoned.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Wilderness Permits are required year-round for overnight camping in the backcountry. Wilderness Camping Permits are free (*see notes for climbers below).

  • Permits and current trail conditions are available at all wilderness information centers, visitor centers and ranger stations (360.569.2211).
  • Camp only in sites designated on your itinerary. Fires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
  • All trail-side camps have primitive toilets, marked sites, poles for hanging food and a nearby water source.
  • Cross-Country Zone Camping: there are no maintained trails, campsites or amenities in cross-country zones. Camp at least 1/4 mile away from any road or established trail, and 100' from water sources. Cross-country camping is not permitted for those hiking the complete Wonderland Trail.
  • Summer Party Size Limit (May 15th - September 30th): 5 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation. Families are an exception to this rule (parents + children).
  • Winter Party Size Limit (October 1 - May 14th): 12 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation.
  • Groups (defined as 6 - 12 people) are permitted in 25 designated sites throughout the park, and when camping on snow in Alpine Zones.
  • Climbing Permits are required year-round for any day or overnight travel on glaciers or above 10,000', including Little Tahoma. The Climbing Permit also serves as the wilderness camping permit for overnight trips. Wilderness Camping Permits are free while a Climbing Permit requires the purchase of an annual Climbing Pass for each member of the party.
  • Sites at Glacier Basin Campground are $20 per night.

Fishing Information

A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Mount Rainier National Park:

  • A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters.
  • Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Always contact the Park before setting out for the latest guidelines.
  • Fishing for Bull Trout, Dolly Varden, Coastal Cutthroat and Chinook (King) Salmon is strictly prohibited in Park waters.

Park Lakes:

  • There is no catch limit in Park lakes.

Streams and Rivers:

  • Daily catch: Six pounds of fish plus one additional fish, not to exceed 12 fish.
  • Possession: 1 day's limit
  • Minimum size: none
  • The Ohanapecosh River and its tributaries are open to fly fishing only. The use of bait or other lures (except artificial flies) is not permitted.

The following areas are closed to fishing:

  • Klickitat Creek above the White River Entrance water supply intake
  • Ipsut Creek above the Ipsut Creek Campground water supply intake
  • Laughingwater Creek above the Ohanapecosh water supply intake
  • Edith Creek basin above the Paradise water supply intake
  • Frozen Lake
  • Reflection Lakes
  • Shadow Lake
  • Tipsoo Lake

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park (good for 7 days). Annual Passes are $50.
  • Pets and Bikes are not permitted on hiking trails or climbing routes in Mount Rainier National Park.
  • Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in Mount Rainier National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

Glacier Basin Trailhead is located 5.8 miles from the White River Entrance Station in Mount Rainier National Park. Drive 4.4 miles from the entrance station and turn left into the Glacier Basin Campground. Drive slow on this narrow, busy road. 

Continue 1.2 miles to the Picnic - Climber Parking Area on the left. Park here and walk .2 miles to the trailhead at the very far end of the campground. Do not park in spaces near the trailhead - these are reserved for specific campsites.

Contact Information

Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

General Information

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