The route to Emerald Ridge follows segments of one road and three trails to reach the ridge crest. The round trip mileage for this hike, if the Westside Road is closed at mile 3.3, is 15 miles. The total elevation gain is approximately 3,000 feet. This route ascends to a subalpine ridge covered in meadow lands and splits the Tahoma Glacier.
Begin this hike from the parking area on Westside Road immediately south of the closure gate. You'll be hiking along the road for three and a half miles before reaching the Round Pass Trailhead. This segment of Westside Road climbs steadily at a moderate grade. The road is wide and easy to follow.
Before you reach Round Pass you'll pass the Lake George Trailhead on the left side of the road. Within a quarter mile you'll see Round Pass Trail leading to the right. Turn right onto this trail and begin ascending more steeply. Approximately one half mile from Round Pass Trailhead, Round Pass Trail intersects South Puyallup Trail at 3,550 feet. At this trail junction follow South Puyallup Trail to the east. This trail leads one mile through dense, old growth forest to South Puyallup Camp. A short distance west of the camp you'll see some unusual rock formations. These tall, andesitic rock formations are slanted vertically and twisted into geometric designs. The hexagonal columns were formed during the cooling process after hot lava flowed through the valley thousands of years ago.
When you reach South Puyallup Camp you'll find designated sites for primitive camping. The two trails leading north and east from South Puyallup Camp are portions of the Wonderland Trail. If you have a few days this is a good base camp for hikes to Emerald Ridge and Klapatche Park.
To reach Emerald Ridge walk eastward from the camp. The trail gains elevation steadily from this point. The terrain changes from forest to rocky glacial moraine. The trail leads along the southern bank of the South Puyallup River, which is fed by Tahoma Glacier. About a mile east of the camp you'll see the Tahoma Glacier in front of you. Continue to follow the trail as it cuts across the ridge to its end where the Tahoma Glacier splits.
This vista provides commanding views of the Tahoma Glacier, southwestern Mt. Rainier and Glacier Island. Binoculars are a good accessory to carry on this trip for spotting interesting rock formations and wildlife on the ridges above. You can anticipate several varieties of wildflowers on Emerald Ridge if you visit during mid to late July.
Directions: From Nisqually Entrance, Drive one mile east to a junction with Westside Road. Turn here and continue up the Westside Road to a closure, approximately 3 miles. The road may be open or closed depending on safety issues. If it is closed park near the closure gate and begin the hike to the trailhead. The Round Pass Trailhead is 3.6 miles from the closure gate.
Elevation: 2,880 feet
Ending Elevation: 6,040 feet
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