Saturday, July 2, 2016

Comet Falls

Comet Falls just might be the most impressive waterfall I’ve ever seen. As one of the highest waterfalls in Mt. Rainier National Park, it plunges 462 feet over the course of four drops, with the tallest drop being measured at 301 feet.

This outstanding hike begins from the Comet Falls Trailhead, located near Christine Falls between Longmire and Paradise. The trail follows Van Trump Creek for the majority of the route. Along the way you’ll pass numerous cascades, cataracts and waterfalls as the creek rushes down the gorge. As a result of the rugged terrain the trail climbs fairly steeply in many spots.

The trail itself is also very rugged, and is littered with numerous rocks and roots. Given that wet conditions normally pervade in the Pacific Northwest, descending back to the trailhead can be fairly treacherous as a result of slick rocks, roots and mud. As you descend, your best bet is to try and avoid anything that’s wet in order to prevent slips. I would definitely recommend using trekking poles - especially during wet conditions.

Roughly a quarter-of-a-mile above the trailhead hikers will cross over Van Trump Creek on a footbridge that spans roughly 50 feet above a stream that crashes through a narrow, rocky gorge. Upstream is an awesome cascading waterfall (photo above), while Christine Falls plunges through the canyon just downstream from the footbridge. Although you can’t see it from this vantage point, I highly recommend visiting the roadside viewing area just up the road from the trailhead (photo below).

As we climbed higher we enjoyed a wide variety of wildflowers.

At just over 1.5 miles you’ll cross over Van Trump Creek where Bloucher Falls crashes into the rocky terrain just upstream from the footbridge. Don’t confuse this with Comet Falls, which is still another quarter-of-a-mile up the trail.

A distant Comet Falls finally comes into view not far above Bloucher Falls:
I highly recommend continuing a little further up the trail to get an up-front view of the falls as they thunder and crash into the rocks below. It’s quite amazing! This was by far the best waterfall hike we’ve ever done.

The waterfall received its name because it resembles the tail of a comet.
Beyond the falls the trail continues up to the sub-alpine meadows of Van Trump Park. Although snow made this area impassable during our mid-June hike, we really wished we could’ve continued on as this area is known for its awesome wildflower displays, as well as its dramatic views of Mt. Rainier. To reach Van Trump Park you’ll have to travel another mile and climb an additional 1100 feet.

Trail: Comet Falls Trail
RT Distance: 3.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1250 feet
Max Elevation: 4875 feet
TH Location: Near Christine Falls east of Longmire
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.

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