If you’re a fan of extreme topography like me, I’d wager that Burroughs Mountain is amongst the best day hikes available from any big city in America. Mount Rainier National Park doesn’t have a shortage of great viewpoints, but even in the context of the lower 48s’ largest volcano, Burroughs stands out.
It’s a ridgeline of 3 summits, unceremoniously called First, Second, and Third, that get higher the closer you get to Mount Rainier (i.e the further you get from your car).
Although hiking to the Third summit is moderately strenuous, even for a reasonably fit person, it’s certainly worth it. The approach, from the north, is at a comparatively gentle grade (the pic above shows Third Burroughs as seen from Second). It’s only once you reach the top that you see that the Winthrop Glacier, pouring down from Mount Rainier itself, has ground away Burroughs’ northern flank. All that’s left is a precipitous drop down onto the glacier itself, a few thousand feet below.
Erosion isn’t a process that you can usually hear, but rockfalls – and the rumbling noise they create – aren’t uncommon. The glacier, for now, continues to wear down the mountains piece by piece.
Bring a picnic and plenty of water, sit on a rock, and bask in the grandeur. You won’t find scenery much bigger than this.
~2 hours from Seattle. Drive to the White River entrance and continue to Sunrise. Pick your route to Frozen Lake; from there it’s a straight shot to First and Second on the Burroughs Mountain trail. Past the summit of Second Burroughs, the crowds will die down significantly. After descending to the saddle, there’s an unnamed/unmarked, but easy to follow, trail heading straight up to Third. Expect to cross some snowfields. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and a hat; there’s no shade. Return via the Sunrise Rim trail for great light in the late afternoon (below).