The trail to Golden Lakes extends 17.25 miles from the closure on Westside Road. Hikers will face 19 miles of hiking on Westside Road and 15.5 miles of hiking on various trails, but mainly the Wonderland Trail. This route leads along the western base of Mt. Rainier. Golden Lakes can be approached from the north as well a few miles from the Mowich Lake Entrance. This description will detail the trail from State Route 165 after a brief description from Westside Road.
To reach Golden Lakes from the south park your vehicle at the closure gate on Westside Road. If the road is open when you arrive drive north ten miles to the road end at Klapatche Point and hike eastward on an abandoned road. Within three miles of Klapatche Point the trail crosses the North Puyallup River and joins the Wonderland Trail at North Puyallup Camp. From this junction walk west then north crossing the tributaries of the North Puyallup River while traversing the western base of Mt. Rainier. Nearly seven miles from North Puyallup Camp the trail enters Sunset Park after crossing Swift Creek. You'll pass the Lookout Point Trail, which leads to the right, and in one mile reach Golden Lakes.
Hiking south from State Road 165 to Golden Lakes is ten miles one way, but the entire route is on trails. If you're seeking solitude this trail is a good bet as few hikers use it. Begin at the parking area one half mile east of the Mowich Lake Entrance. The trail begins by descending into the Meadow Creek drainage. Within a half mile of the trailhead you'll cross the stream and begin ascending out of the valley.
The route ascends 480 feet along the western flanks of Paul Peak then makes an abrupt turn toward the east. The trail contours the southern slopes of Paul Peak for three quarters of a mile then begins a long series of switchbacks descending into the Mowich River Valley. At the base of this descent, three miles from the trailhead, this trail joins the Wonderland Trail.
The Wonderland Trail leads north and south from the Paul Peak Trail junction. To reach Golden Lakes turn right, south, at this junction and continue descending toward the Mowich River. Cross the river on the log bridge provided, then enter the South Mowich River drainage. The Mowich River Camps lie very close to this river crossing at an elevation of 2,600 feet.
Leaving the shelters the trail gains elevation slowly. It crosses the South Mowich River within a half mile of the camps then begins to climb steeply. In the next three miles the trail climbs 2,160 feet. At the top of these switchbacks the trail turns eastward and follows the ridge crest east of Golden Lakes. You'll find spur trails leading to the lakes, but if you continue along the Wonderland Trail you'll reach Golden Lakes Camp two miles from reaching the ridge summit.
Directions: From Nisqually Entrance, Drive eastward to Westside Road and follow it 3.3 miles to the road closure. (If the road is open drive to roads end and begin hiking from Klapatche Point.) Hike northward on Westside Road 3.6 miles to Round Pass Trailhead. Here you have a choice, continue hiking on Westside Road 5 more miles to Klapatche Point, or follow the South Puyallup Trail to the Wonderland Trail and hike north from there.
Elevation: 3,550 feet
Ending Elevation: 4,490 feet
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Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
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