The Burroughs Mountain Trail is our favorite day hiking trail in Mt. Rainier National Park and one we would recommend over and over again. The hike itself is strenuous, climbing up and down 3 “burroughs” (mountains) over a total of 9 miles. Yet, few day hikes have a payoff as magnificent and worthwhile as that of the Burroughs Mountain Trail: a stunning, up close and personal view of Mt. Rainier. If you have time for just one hike in Mt. Rainier, this is it.
In this hiking guide, we will cover the trek to all three Burroughs which we promise is well worth the sweat and tears. The path to the First and Second Burroughs is well-traveled and easy to follow. However, we noticed that most hiking guides will only cover just these two. If you press onto the Third Burroughs, you’ll be rewarded with the closest view of Mt. Rainier you can get in the entire park, short of summiting the mountain itself. Sold yet?
Burroughs Mountain hike details
- Type: Out and back
- Distance: 9 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,500 ft.
- Length of time: 4-5 hours
- Difficulty: Strenuous
Getting to the Burroughs Mountain Trail
The Burroughs Mountain Trail is one of the most popular trails out of the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state. From the White River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park on Hwy 410, follow the road until you reach the Sunrise Parking Lot where you’ll find the trailhead.
After arriving in Sunrise, follow signs for the Sourdough Ridge Trail which quickly climbs. Early on, you’ll feel the elevation and the uphill climb, and will appreciate the motivation that stunning valley views offer as you look out to your right.
First and Second Burroughs
The trail is well-marked and straightforward as you continue your trek about 1.5 miles until you reach a 5-way junction at Frozen Lake. Follow signs for the Burroughs Mountain Trail, and you won’t get lost. From there, it’s a rocky climb up to the First Burroughs (0.7 miles from the junction) and Second Burroughs (1.3 miles from the junction).
Once you reach the open top of the Second Burroughs Mountain, this is the perfect stopping point for lunch or a snack. You’ll also see a lot of day hikers choose to end their hike here. While this makes for a respectable day hike, if you have enough energy left, power onto the third mountain. We promise — it will be WORTH IT!
If you do choose to tackle the Third Burroughs, know that this is the hardest part of the trek since you effectively “undo” a lot of the work you did in getting to Second Burroughs, only to climb it all over again. But, again, we promise it’ll be worth it, so take a deep breath. Ready?
After leaving the open top of Second Burroughs, you’ll start descending into a valley before climbing up again.
Don’t be surprised if you find patches of snow in this area, even if it’s a hot summer day. Take any snow patches carefully, and use your best judgment.
Once you make it to the top of Third Burroughs, reap your reward! At the top, you’ll find the hike’s crown jewel — and what makes this our all-time favorite hike in Mt. Rainier National Park: a dramatic view of Mt. Rainier that feels so close, you could touch it.
Things to know about hiking Burroughs Mountain
- Start early. This is a popular trail in Mt. Rainier, so arrive early to beat the crowds. Also, keep in mind that this is a difficult hike, so you’ll want to make sure you give yourself enough time to complete the trail according to your fitness level.
- Use the restroom before you go. Most people do this before hiking, but it’s worth mentioning! The hike is long, and there aren’t many places for you to “go” in nature due to the desolate terrain. Restrooms are available at the Sunrise Visitor Center near the trailhead.
- Dress in layers. Somehow, it is possible to be both cold and hot at once on this trail, which I didn’t even know to be possible until hiking Burroughs Mountain. Even on a hot summer day, you’ll feel the chill of the high elevation and proximity to snow-capped Mt. Rainier — yet still sweat from all the hard work.
- Be on the lookout for wildlife. Goats, marmots, and pikas tend to wander in this area, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot them!
- Watch for shallow snowfields on the trail, even in the summer. We were able to navigate these without microspikes, although having hiking poles and hiking boots will help. Take them carefully, and use your best judgment.
Best time to hike the Burroughs Mountain Trail
Early July to early Sept. Because Burroughs Mountain is located in the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier, the park’s highest point reachable by vehicle, it is inaccessible for most of the year when it is buried under snow. As a result, you can only hike this trail when the Sunrise Road is open in the summer. Be sure to check the NPS road status before setting out.
What gear to bring
- Hiking boots: This is a hike where you’ll want hiking boots! The extra traction will help especially during the rockier sections of the hike. Also, be sure to break them in before you take them on this hike. We passed a hiker who was using this hike to break in her boots, and her feet had started bleeding.
- Hiking poles: Hiking poles can come in handy on the steep climbs and if you need to cross any snowfields.
- Water: Bring LOTS of water. This is a tough hike. Make sure you can stay well hydrated.
- Sunscreen and hat: Since you’ll be hiking in high elevation, you will need plenty of sunscreen to reapply throughout the hike. You’ll also notice from our photos that the trail is very exposed with very little shade, so having a hat can help provide you with additional protection.
- Light jacket: Bring a light jacket even in the summer since it can get extremely windy and chilly when you reach the open tops of the Burroughs.
- Camera: You’ll want it for capturing the scenic views.
- Binoculars: These can be good to have especially if you are interested in wildlife viewing.
Where to stay
Below are some of our Mt. Rainier lodging picks within a short distance of the park:
- Ashford (Moderate): Stone Creek Lodge (closest lodging you’ll get outside of Paradise, Mt. Rainier)
- Enumclaw (Moderate): Guest House Enumclaw
- Crystal Mountain (Moderate): Crystal Mountain Hotels
- Crystal Mountain (Luxury): Alta Crystal Resort
If you are looking to camp, you’ll want to stay at the White River Campground, which is just 12 miles from Sunrise.