Hiking past bright, multi-hued fields of lupine, paintbrush, bistort, sitka valerian, and awe-inspiring views of Mount Rainier is a priceless summer adventure. I was seeing vivid wildflower reports of Berkeley Park in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park, and though I've written about Sunrise hikes in my book, 75 Great Hikes Seattle, I had yet to visit Berkeley Park. So, I went for it!
Berkeley Park is a moderate, 7.7 mile roundtrip hike with 1700 feet cumulative elevation gain. It's located in the northeastern side of Mount Rainier National Park via the Sunrise/White River entrance, typically about a 2 hour, 20 minute drive from Seattle.
Starting from the Sunrise Visitor Center, climb north to Sourdough Ridge and then head west towards Frozen Lake. At the junction for the Wonderland Trail, Fremont Lookout, and First Burroughs, continue west on the Wonderland Trail for Berkeley Park Camp. In 0.8 miles, the trail splits--the Wonderland Trail to the left, and the Northern Loop Trail straight ahead. You'll stay straight on the Northern Loop Trail towards Berkeley Park Camp. As you descend northward, the arid rocky landscape gives way to murmurs and streamside views of Lodi Creek, striking green meadows of paintbrush, lupine, sitka valerian, and bistort, and the tucked-in feeling of hiking in a valley between Skyscraper Peak and Fremont Lookout.
Berkeley Park hike is an inverse hike. With the exception of a modest climb from the Sunrise parking lot to Sourdough Ridge, you're descending over 1000 feet to Berkeley Park Camp. On the way back, you climb back up to Sourdough Ridge before descending back to the trailhead at the Sunrise parking lot.
What I loved about Berkeley Park:
1. As usual with hikes from Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park, the views of Mount Rainier as you hike are simply breathtaking. There is something classic about seeing Mount Rainier up-close that never gets old--just like visiting Snoqualmie Falls.
2. Experiencing a sunrise at Sunrise is unforgettable (as indicated by the name :), with Mount Rainier bathed in a beautiful pink glow early in the morning. Even if you arrive in the parking lot at sunrise, you're in for a treat on the drive up.
3. Ever-changing views of Mount Rainier abound as you wind through the Sourdough Ridge trail and onto the Wonderland Trail. Eventually Mount Rainier disappears altogether as you descend to Berkeley Park, yet the valley views, murmurs of Lodi Creek, and plentiful wildflowers offer a new and worthwhile perspective.
4. Lodi Creek is the sleeper hit of Berkeley Park, streaming northward and eventually emptying into White River. There are lots of small spur trails to the creek to rest or resupply your water, and the setting of the wildflowers in addition to the creek is incredibly picturesque.
5. Berkeley Park was like a "Field of Dreams" for hikers--walking alongside knee-level wildflowers whose colors melded together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle.
6. There's a good chance you'll spot mountain goats. On the way back from Berkeley Park, I heard rocks falling in the distance and saw a couple peering at the Burroughs Mountain ahead of me on the trail. It turns out it was mountain goats making the noise as they were navigating the steep cliffs!
6. The Sunrise Day Lodge, located just east of the Visitor Center off the parking lot, is open this time of year from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. You can refill your water at their water bottle re-fill station, grab a bite to eat, stock up on camping supplies, or pick up souvenirs at their gift shop. They also have tables and chairs, so it's a nice, shady place for a break.
1. If you like the idea of getting an early start, consider packing and preparing your gear the night before. I pack my backpack, prepare all my food, charge all the batteries for my gear, clean my camera lenses, send my hiking itinerary to my emergency contacts, and even lay out my clothes in order to maximize my sleep time and make it easy to grab my gear and go. For this hike, I left Kirkland at 4:30 a.m. and arrived at the Sunrise Visitor Center parking lot at about 6:45 a.m. The trail at this time was quiet, with only a handful of people out that early.
2. There is very little tree-cover in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park, which makes the sun exposure relentless and also make it a bit more challenging than usual if you need a bathroom break. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen and use the restroom next to the parking lot before you head out. Consider wearing a long-sleeved, lightweight shirt and long pants to protect yourself from the sun and bug bites.
3. The bugs were out in full force on August 3rd, but wearing a bug net helped keep them away from my face and also kept me calm, since I wasn't swatting at them every few minutes :) I wear a wide-brimmed hat with a Sea to Summit bug net draped over it, and it does the trick.
4. You can easily extend your Berkeley Park hike with any number of options. Continue past Berkeley Park Camp another couple miles to Grand Park, head back to the junction with First Burroughs and Fremont Lookout and explore one of those trails, or take the Silver Forest Trail from the south side of the parking lot (one of my favorites).