There are a lot of trails around Mount Rainier National Park. One of my favorites however is the Burroughs mountain trail from the Sunrise area of the park. The trail has so much terrain and places to cover as well as some incredible views of Mount Rainier.
You can choose to go as far along on the trail as you choose, but the closer you go the closer you see the mountain and areas. If you go all the way to the third Burroughs you may even be able to hear the glaciers cracking. Super cool. So come along and explore the trail and how it is.
About the Burroughs Mountain Trail
Distance: 9.4 miles | Type: Out & Back/Loop | Elev. Gain: 2560 feet | Avg. Time: 6 hrs. | Difficulty: Challenging
The Burroughs trail takes you through the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier. Sunrise is the highest area of the park that is drivable and one of the most beautiful areas to access some great trails. The Burroughs trail is one of the most popular day hikes you can do in the park. There are ways to extend it beyond a day to do other hikes as well. The hike takes you through beautiful grassland and along various hills to take you closer and closer to the Mountain.
Getting to Burroughs Trailhead
The Burroughs Mountain trail is accessed from next to the Sunrise Visitor Center. The Sunrise Visitor Center is the highest drivable point in the park as well.
Parking for the trail is the same for the visitor center and other nearby trails. The parking lot is rather large, so generally you can often find parking in the area, but given it’s popularity its still possible you may need to park further down the road.
It’s a bit of a pain finding the trail in the beginning. The first part of the trail is a loop, you can go either direction or even just out and back. At about the mid-point of the trail you’ll get to an out and back portion which will take you to the various “Burroughs”.
To do the hike clockwise (which most people do I believe), go to the left of the visitor center and look for the sunrise rim trail.
Hiking the Burroughs Mountain Trail
The trailhead to the Burroughs trail does not start from a trailhead that says Burroughs trail. But you access the trail among others from the parking lot of Sunrise Visitor Center.
When facing the visitor center from the parking lot, go to your left. You’ll see several trailheads from this area. Signs for Sunrise Rim trail and Shadow lakes trail. You’ll actually be heading towards shadow lake for the first part of the hike.
Th beginning part of the hike is pretty overall flat in the beginning. Actually parts of the early part of the hike actually descend as well. You’ll head through some trees and through some grassland areas.
At about 1.2 miles into the hike you’ll reach Shadow lake. When I was there it was not exactly much to see. It was small and shallow looking for the most part.
After about another 0.2 miles you reach the entrance for Sunrise campsite. This is primitive backcountry campsite in the park. You’ll need permits for any camping in the campsite. There are toilets though at the camp if that’s something you need.
The trail starts to gain much more elevation after this point. It starts a bit gradual and then gets steeper. The area between the campsite and the next stop where were I saw some wildlife. Just some cute marmots hanging out in the area around past the campsite.
At about another 0.2 miles you’ll see your first great view of the mountains and glacier of Rainier. This is quite a beautiful view and one worth stopping for a quick photo op.
After about another 0.2 miles you’ll see that you are entering the Burroughs area. There’s a sign here that informs and warns about uniqueness of the area. Head the sign and take care of the area. This area is very fragile as are many Alpine regions. Damage or issues take so much longer to repair than lower altitudes.
The area here gets way more rocky and dirt than in the forest. There are still some trees in this area but its getting sparser indeed.
You’ll continue on the trail this way for awhile. I loved how the mountain seemed to feel like it was getting closer and closer as I went.
After about 0.8 miles from the Burroughs mountain sign and about 2.7 miles into the trail total you’ll come to a fork. To the right you’ll see the way back if you want to do the loop on the return (so you don’t have to do the completely exact same trail). You are currently at the First Burroughs if you want to head back (5.4 miles total) to the right towards frozen lake and to the Visitor center. To the left you’ll see the sign to the second Burroughs.
If you have it in you, going to the second Burroughs is worth it. It’s actually not a bad hike. You’ll descend a bit for the next 0.2 miles and then ascend for the next 0.4. Overall it’s not a terrible amount of gain over the hike. But you’ll be given great views of the mountain from up here.
From here you’ll be at the Second Burroughs. I would take a moment and grab and snack and beautiful views. This was one of the more popular areas I found during my stay and where I ended up picking up some additional hikers. The trip to the Third Burroughs is an additional 1.5 mile each way. Surprisingly, it’s a lot harder, a lot steeper than the other parts of the trail. It will also get you closest to the mountain you can as well.
From the Second Burroughs you’ll descend about 0.5 miles until you reach the Glacier Basin junction. This trail will connect with other trails and it was popular with folks who were doing multi-day hikes in the area. From here the trail gets steep. You’ll ascend a very steep area for the next 1 mile. Once you get to the top of the area, you’ll be at the Third Burroughs. At this point congratulate yourself, enjoy, relax, and then when you are ready head back the way you came.
You’ll return back the way you came. You’ll return to the Second Burroughs and then continue on the way back to the First Burroughs. At the sign for the fork you should head towards the Frozen Lake (0.7 miles).
Frozen lake is a tiny pond, and it was actually the only part of the trail that had any snow. Just a tiny bit of ice and snow on the north side of the lake.
From here you can head past the lake and look for an area that cross to the other mountain area on your left. There’s a trail to your right, and it takes you to a viewpoint. I kept getting super confused on how it all connected. It’s on the eastern side of the lake you need to be. It’s on the Sourdough Ridge Trail.
About a half-mile past the frozen lake you’ll come to another sign and junction. Follow the way for the Sourdough Ridge Trail.
From here just keep following the trail. Be sure to take in the beautiful views. Sure you won’t get to see Mount Rainier, but the views are still quite spectacular. You’ll come to one last junction. Follow the trail to the right (Huckleberry Creek Trail) and continue on the trail until you reach the parking lot/visitor center.
Tips & FAQs
- Bring lot of water and good shoes/boots. I found both important. There’s a lot of sand, rocks in areas, which having good boots important. There is water along the trail, although you’ll need to treat it.
- Wear sunscreen and proper clothing. There’s very little shade on the trail and sun exposure is definitely high. I found the temperature to change and certainly weather is a consideration.
- Leave no Trace. I feel I shouldn’t have to say this, but its important to.
- Stay on the Trail. Alpine areas are particularly fragile. Minimize impact by staying on trail.
- Watch for wildlife. There’s various animals in the area including black bears. Keep your distance especially if there are cubs present.