Norse Peak

Total Mileage 14.2 Miles
Hike Type One-Way
Total Hiking Days 2 Days
Hiking Distance – Day 1 8.2 miles
Hiking Distance – Day 2 6 miles
Date Hiked 6/25/2016 – 6/26/2016
NWS Forscast Seven Day
Caltopo Map https://caltopo.com/m/GFAT
Greentrails Map Bumping Lake, WA – NO 271

Pros: Seclusion, elk and mountain goats prevalent, some of the best Mt. Rainier views outside of the park.

Special Concerns: None.

We stayed at the Alpine Inn at Crystal Mountain. It is about two miles from the trailhead.

Perhaps it was due to hiking a little early in the season, but this was one of the most secluded hikes I have ever been on. From when we started the trail until about ten AM the next morning, we didn’t see another human. While surreal, it is almost the exact reason we get out anyway.

The trailhead is a couple of miles from the resort at Crystal Mountain, just on the side of the road. If there aren’t already cars parked there, it can be easy to miss. Park and cross the street to start your hike.

Starting this hike is going to be the biggest slap in the face, as it gains around 2000 feet in the first 2.5 miles up a series of Switchbacks. When the trails starts to level off you will come to a fork with Norse Peak to the right and Goat Lake to the left. Don’t ruin the surprise, and leave Norse Peak for tomorrow and head bear left to a horse camp.

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Late snow made it easy to lose the talus trail
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View of Goat Lake
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Poor picture of some elk near Goat Lake

From here, everything flattens out. Take a moment to view the first basin below you. 400 feet below you is Goat Lake, which does have some camps. They should absolutely be avoided, however, as the lake itself is filthy. Instead, keep an eye and ear out for elk, as they seem to enjoy the oft-vacant site.

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Basin view
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PCT junction, turn right

Continue onto and through the next basin which requires just a mild elevation climb and fall, before reaching the Pacific Crest Trail over the Barnard Saddle. While this stretch should be fairly easy, lingering snow without footprints can make it easy to get a little lost. Stick to it, check your map, and you should be fine.

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Lunch at the shelter in Big Crow Basin

Head South from the junction with the PCT to start taking a look at the old shelter in the Big Crow Basin below you. This is a great place to stop for lunch, which will add a little distance and elevation to your trip. Once again, keep aware for elk.

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Path to home for the night

 

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Lake Basin
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Goats above camp

Head further South to the next basin where you will be making camp, at Basin Lake below. There are a few places to make some really great camps down there with running water near. Keep an eye on the rocks on the South Side of the camp, as it is prime for mountain goat viewing.

Pack up and head back up the basin the next morning, retracing yesterday’s steps. Head for Scout’s Pass on the PCT for the first fantastic Mt. Rainier view. Stay in this small meadow for a while to get your pictures and catch your breath from the 700 foot climb from the basin. Head North (turn around) on the PCT and as you cross the pass, look to your left for a small path the aggressively climbs above the trail you were just on. This may not be marked, but this is the Trail up to Norse Peak.

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Mt. Rainier from Scott’s Bluff

The trail gets a little overgrown at times, but keep with it. Soon you will be at the peak with the best view of the day. On a clear day, you will be able to see five volcanoes across Washington and Oregon. Stay up here for a while, few places have a view that compares to this one.

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Rainier from Norse Peak
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Adams from Norse Peak
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Us!

Once you’ve decided to leave the peak, you will be on a new trail heading due North, well above the Big Crow Basin. Like, very above it which may be a concern for some of the more acrophobic among us. A note for those individuals, the next part of the trail will be very difficult, and you may want to double back the way you came in which will add around a mile.

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A steep trail

The next path then takes you to a very steep ridge that you are to walk along. The trail here is no wider than a foot and is slanted to the left itself. As long you take it slow, you should be fine. Take a quick break if your knees are a little wobbly after this, you’re going to need them for the incredible downhill you’re facing in the next four miles.

If you remember the switchbacks that tired you out the day before, you now have to travel down them. Take it slow if you have knee issues, and if you brought trekking poles, now is the time to break them out. An ibuprofen taken earlier in the day may prove helpful here. You’ll be in your car soon enough, where you can sit down the whole way home and who needs knees then?

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