How often do you have an opportunity to see three waterfalls on a relatively short hike? We did at Mount Rainier! After our snowshoeing adventure, we drove back down the mountain to the viewpoint for Narada Falls. From talking with the ranger, we knew that Narada Falls had a trail that extends past the falls and follows a section of the Wonderland Trail. The trail also goes past two other waterfalls – Map Cap Falls and Carter Falls.
We checked out Narada Falls, which is absolutely stunning. If you are visiting, you can see it from the parking lot, but to get the really good view, you really need to walk 0.1 miles down the paved trail to see it from below. You won’t regret it! The sun was shining on the base of the falls, and we saw a beautiful double rainbow in the mist at the bottom.
We made our way down the trail, and as usual, within a few hundred feet, all the other people melted away. We found ourselves totally alone. We had to do a bit of scrambling early on though, as there was a large tree down on the trail that we had to climb over.
We found ourselves hiking downhill (which Jon hates because it is hard on his knees), always near the Paradise River, making our way through amazing old growth forest. Being early in the spring for this mountain environment, there was lots of evidence of the winter remaining – leaning trees, broken limbs, patches of snow and mud, but nothing compared to a typical winter here.
I would guess that we hiked about 2 miles to reach Map Cap and Carter Falls. Carter Falls is a traditional waterfall, with a high plunging fall, but Mad Cap Falls is more like a series of rapids, a water slide waterfall! I would be curious to know if any brave souls have tried to careen down Mad Cap Falls in a raft!
Due to a miscommunication on my part, this hike ended up being about twice as long as I was expecting – I thought the Ranger had said it was 1.1 miles each way from Narada Falls to Carter Falls, but he must have been talking about something else… Oops! The hike back was beautiful as well, but we were both getting really hungry and tired. And the trip back was all uphill! By the time we got back, I figure we had hiked 7.5 miles for the day – 3.5 miles of it over snow!
All in all Narada Falls to Carter Falls was a great hike. Although it didn’t have mountain views, there was a peaceful serenity provided by the old growth trees, the sounds of the river, and the scenic beauty of three different waterfalls. Not to mention the fact that we only saw about a half dozen other people on the whole hike!
We made it back to the car about 5:30, tired but really happy with our hikes for the day. It was time to make our way back down the mountain to the National Park Inn – our home for the night!