dad and son looking at view along naches peak loop in early fall

Hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail With Kids, Mount Rainier

Are you interested in hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail in Mount Rainier National Park? The Naches Peak Loop is one of our favorite family friendly hikes we’ve ever done! This trail has epic and diverse mountain, forest, and lake views the entire way. We have the best memories of taking our 2 year old and our 4 month old on this trail, and we will definitely be hiking again. You can also catch wildflowers if you visit midsummer, or fall colors if you hike in Autumn. We hiked this trail just after Labor Day so we actually got to see some of the beautiful fall colors just beginning. No matter what season you choose to hike, you will have the best views of the Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, and even get to hike a portion of the famous Pacific Crest Trail.

Naches Peak Loop Trail at a Glance

How Long to Get There

The Naches Peak Loop Trail starts at the parking lot for Tipsoo Lake. It’s located on the East border of Mount Rainier National Park along the Mather Memorial Parkway part of the Chinook Scenic Byway. I would recommend filling up on gas when you see a gas station. There are big stretches of road here where there is no gas station available.

  • Enumclaw to Tipsoo Lake: about 1 hour
  • Packwood to Tipsoo Lake: about 45 minutes
  • Seattle to Tipsoo Lake: about 2 hours
  • Tacoma to Tipsoo Lake: about 1.5 hours

*At the Tipsoo Lake trailhead, there is a vault toilet and garbage cans as well as a map of the trail.

*There are a few other parking lots available which you can use if you aren’t able to get a spot in the Tipsoo Lake parking lot. It is a loop trail so wherever you start you’ll see all the same views. If you can, I would recommend parking at Tipsoo Lake – it makes for easy access with kids.

What to Pack

When to Hike Naches Loop

The Naches Peak is a great hike for Summer and Fall. The road to the trailhead is closed during Winter so depending on the amount of snow, the trailhead may not be open in Spring either. If you’re hiking midsummer, you’ll be able to see beautiful fields of wildflowers. The National Parks website has a great tool to track what’s currently blooming for wildflowers in the park. If you hike in the fall, you’ll also get the chance to see beautiful fall colors.

During peak times of park visitation, this will be a popular trail. We highly recommend hiking this trail early in the morning. Tipsoo Lake at sunrise is also an amazing site. If you hike early in the morning, you won’t have any trouble finding parking, or having a crowded trail.

Frequently Asked Questions Before Hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail

1. Is the Naches Peak Trail Family Friendly?

Yes! The Naches Peak Loop Trail gives you a lot of “bang for your buck”. Meaning, you can hike just over 3 miles and see epic views in every direction. We took our 2 year old and 4 month old on this trail, and while it’s always a little more challenging (or a lot) to hike with littles, it was worth every second. There are a few sections of trail that have steep drop offs, but a good portion of it feels really safe for kids to walk on their own.

2. How long does it take to hike the Naches Peak Loop?

This trail took us about 3 hours. This included frequent stops and letting our two year old do some hiking himself. He made it almost a mile on his own! We also stopped for candy mid way, a must when hiking with a toddler.

3. What wildlife will I encounter on the Naches Loop Trail?

We didn’t actually encounter any wildlife while hiking this trail. However, it’s possible to see elk, deer, birds, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, etc.

4. Can I bring my dog on the Naches Loop Trail?

No, dogs are not allowed on this trail. There is a section of this trail which leaves the National Park and joins up with the Pacific Crest Trail. This section does allow dogs. However, you’d be missing most of the good parts of this hike if you didn’t do the whole loop!

5. Where do you park for Naches Peak?

The best place to park for the Naches Peak Loop Trail is at the Tipsoo Lake Parking Lot. Plan to get there early enough so the parking lot doesn’t fill up.

Which Direction to Hike

There are some strong opinions on which direction to hike the Naches Peak Loop Trail. The general consensus is to hike the loop in a clockwise direction and I would recommend this as well. The reason for hiking clockwise is because on the way back, you’ll have views of and be walking towards Mount Rainier. If you hike counter-clockwise you’d have to turn around to see these views. You’ll also have a more gradual incline at the beginning. If you hike counter-clockwise, you’ll start the trail with steep switchbacks. However, that could be a good thing depending on how you like to hike – you’d get a good chunk of your elevation done with right at the beginning.

I’m of the opinion that this trail would be STUNNING no matter which way you hike. We did hike clockwise, but this hike has so much to offer when it comes to different views that you’ll enjoy either way.

Naches Peak Loop Trail Description

We started this trail early in the morning just after Labor Day. We parked at a mostly empty parking lot at the Tipsoo Lake trailhead. If you set off early enough, you’ll be greeted by a spectacular sunrise at Tipsoo Lake if the mountain is out (one of the best places to watch sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park).

If you decide to hike clockwise (like most people do), you’ll start your hike along Tipsoo Lake and then proceed along an uphill climb through the trees. You’ll continue uphill until you reach a fun bridge. We added a little extra mileage running back and forth across this bridge several times! This marks the spot where you’ll be leaving Mount Rainier National Park and joining up with the Pacific Crest Trail. It was super fun to see some through hikers on the PCT and to say that we’ve hiked a part of it.

This is also where the amazing views begin. You’ll see the Cascade Mountains to your left and this view continues for some time. The trail continues to have some incline as you pass through the mountains along alpine meadows and lakes. Once you hit this section, you’re almost to the end of the incline.

As you continue, you’ll see another alpine lake, with beautiful shades of blue through the Cascade Mountains in the distance. Hike a little farther and you’ll see Mount Rainier in all her glory! Hopefully, unless it’s cloudy, then you may not get to see the majestic mountain. Regardless of if you get to see Mount Rainier, you’ll see many other picture perfect scenes that make this hike well worth it.

For the last part of the trail, you’ll make your way downhill as the children start to melt down (just kidding!). There are several fairly steep switchbacks that will take you down until Tipsoo Lake is back in view. There isn’t a lot to see here, and we just walked as quickly as we could so we could make it back to our car and more snacks before it got too hot.

Now it’s time to enjoy a well deserved snack for you and your kids back at the car. If you’re staying in Packwood, WA, head back to the Ice Cream Airstream or to grab a beer and pretzel at the Packwood Brewing Company!

beer on the table at packwood brewery

Final Thoughts

The Naches Peak Loop Trail is one of the best hikes we’ve ever done as a family. It’s rare to find a hike that is this short and has this epic of views. If you’re in Mount Rainier National Park, this is one can’t miss hike, whether you are with kids or not!

Looking for Other Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park?

You can also check out our National Parks page to find more family friendly adventures to enjoy around the USA! Happy travels!

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