Seeking adventure? Look no further than the Tahoma Creek Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.
This 6.5-mile round trip hike is strenuous, and it's along a trail that is by no means maintained by the National Park Service — but the Tahoma Creek Trail is a great way to experience the wild side of Mount Rainier without straying too far from the more tourist-friendly areas.
Start out by taking the Westside Road just after you enter the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. You'll want a vehicle that can traverse through some mud, as the road quickly turns to gravel and gets muddy in spots.
You'll soon come to a Road Closed sign, and the NPS has posted several signs warning of an active debris flow in the area. Keep this in mind, as a glacial outburst caused several tons of debris to come racing down Tahoma Creek in summer 2015. Proceed past these signs for about 1.2 miles until you reach the trailhead, which is marked by a bright pink ribbon tied to a tree. You'll see a lot more of those over the next few miles.
Waterproof boots are recommended as you'll be hiking very close to Tahoma Creek. At one point during the hike, you'll have a choice between scaling a steep hill or finding a way across Tahoma Creek. Whichever way you choose, follow the prescribed route that other hikers have kindly marked using stacks of rocks, and be very safe.
Once on the trail in the woods again, proceed about 1.3 miles to the junction with the Wonderland Trail. Take note that the Tahoma Creek trail crosses several small streams utilizing carved-out logs that can at times be slippery, and the trail also undulates and switches back — gaining and losing elevation rapidly — several times.
Before too long, you'll link up with the Wonderland Trail, marked by the only brown sign you'll see on this portion of the journey. Bear right and follow the trail around the bend to the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge, a man-made wonder that uses a series of planks and cables to take hikers on the Wonderland Trail 200 feet across a ravine that makes the glacier-fed Tahoma Creek resound thunderously.
Crossing the bridge is an adventure. Heed the signs that recommend one hiker cross at a time, because once you set out on the bridge you'll begin to feel why that's the case. Those who are scared of heights need not apply, but for the adventurous, the bridge provides a stunning view of the canyon below — and on a clear day, Mount Rainier in the distance.
Double back the way you came to get back to the parking area along the Westside Road. In all, this trip can realistically be done by experienced hikers in a matter of just a few hours.