Echo Rock/Observation Rock, Rainier National Park
- Roundtrip: 12 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,500 feet
We all have our happy places.
For Happy Gilmore, it’s a gauzy place with beer, lingerie, a slot machine and a dwarf riding a tricycle. For the SkiZer, it’s a perfect camping spot high on Mount Rainier.
I’ve been coming to this spot for the last three years. With the Perseid Meteor Shower in full swing, I decided to come back, take in the show and let the beauty of Mount Rainier wash over me one more time.
I arrived at Mowich Lake on Mount Rainier National Park‘s northwest corner thinking it would be a quiet midweek scene. Guess again.
It’s high season on Mount Rainier right now. The parking lot was jammed and spots were scarce on the very busy dirt road coming into the lake.
The route to Echo and Observation Rocks starts on the very popular Spray Park Trail, and dozens of backpackers and day hikers were out enjoying the wildflowers and views of Rainier.
That all changed about four miles in. Taking a well-marked climbers’ trail, I headed to great camping spot — my happy place — that I discovered several years ago at the base of the Flett Glacier.
It’s in a wonderful, protected bowl with a view of the glacier stretching toward the Willis Wall on Mount Rainier and framed by Echo Rock on the east and Observation Rock on the west.
Once there, I saw one other hiker for the rest of the day. That evening, I had the mountain, the meteor show and a perfect camping spot to myself.
Getting your permit: You’ll need an overnight permit for backcountry camping on Rainier. To do this, you need to say the magic words at the ranger station: “I’d like a cross-country zone permit for Ptarmigan Ridge.” Cross-country permits are allowed in certain areas on Rainier, allowing hikers to camp outside of established backcountry camps.
It’s cold up there: Because you’re camping at 7,300 feet next to a glacier, you’ll be surprised how quickly things cool off at night. Pack warm clothing for the evening. I arrived to a 70-degree high, followed by freezing temperatures that night.
Blister rating: Three out of five stars. The Spray Park Trail is a freeway. It has a difficult climb about two miles in, and then once you’re at Spray Park, the route keeps going up. Near the camping spot, a bit of fairly easy boulder-hopping is necessary.