There both risks and rewards to early season hikes on our trails!
The rewards: you will get to see some of our earliest bloomers, Avalanche lily (abundant on our Reflection Lakes trail) and Glacier lily (abundant on our Glacier Basin Trail) – see some lovely examples in recent pictures above!
The challenges: we can’t place the markers until all the snow is gone, so even if you get to the sites, you’ll have to use the pictures and / or a GPS unit to find the plots – like a treasure hunt! For example, we have just one of our 11 trail markers out at Reflection Lakes (as of July 8th). You also will have to identify a lot of budding phenophases (see two examples below), as not much else besides the two lilies pictured above will be flowering.
The risks: You may need to navigate across snow, and avoid some the hazards associated with this (e.g. snow bridges – see example below), on the Reflection Lakes hike in the next week or so (week of July 10th and possibly 17th). If you are not comfortable crossing the creek (with or without snow), you have a couple of options. You may be able to access the upper plots (3-11) via the west branch of the High Lakes Trail (or even the fourth crossing trail from the Paradise creek), which allows you to avoid the creek. Or, if you don't like snow at all, you can consider rescheduling to a Glacier Basin Hike (this hike is almost entirely snow free – not surprising since the east side of Mt. Rainier receives about half the snow that the southwest side does). Please don’t forget to also check our safety guidelines (includes some hints and tips about snow navigation).
Happy hiking! Janneke