3. Skyline/Muir Snowfield Trail at Mount Rainier, Washington
While some trails boast of scorching hot temperatures, this trail promises to keep you cool. Located in Washington State, the Skyline/Muir Snowfield Trail stretches 9 miles, roundtrip, and delights hikers with scenic wildflowers, lush forest, and lakes before hitting the 2.3-mile stretch known as Muir Snowfield. Although cold, the ascent before Muir Snowfield is quite innocent compared with what’s to come.
The unmarked Muir Snowfield climb is a 2,800-vertical-foot hike, and unfortunately, it isn’t only the physical strain of the hike that offers the challenge but also the vicious storms that can unexpectedly come through from the Pacific. Although it was likely a piece of cake for brave naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir (who is also this trail’s namesake), many people have found the climb to be much less rewarding. It is said that around 90 climbers have slipped and fallen or have become frozen in an attempt to ascend this fierce mountain. As recently as last January, a climber died of hypothermia at 8,000 feet on his Muir ascent, making him one of several Mount Rainer casualities in 2012. And just in case you aren’t a little frightened already, did we mention that Mount Rainer is also an active volcano? So you should attempt this wintery trail only if you have taken the proper precautions.
An important thing to remember when tackling this path is that unexpected conditions are to be expected. Aside from needing to be an advanced climber, here are some suggestions for a successful trip: Be sure to track your route with a topographic map, a GPS, or a compass. And always have a device with which you can check reports from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. Also, it is best to travel in a small group with other experienced hikers.