Home Hikes Hike Report: Burroughs Mountain Loop

Hike Report: Burroughs Mountain Loop

by Lisa

On the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend I woke to clear skies and an amazing sunrise on Mount Rainier. We were still in the White River Campground, but had hoped that the weather would in fact improve (as per the weatherpeople’s forecast!)

Home sweet home in the backcountry

Of course I didn’t have my camera with me when I saw the sunrise glow on the mountain, but instead got to absorb it all for myself, watching as the mountain went from a flaming orange to a more softer glow and then brightened as the sun hit it in full. It was also my first full view of the east side of Mount Rainier. Now, I’ve properly seen the mountain from all sides!

We broke down camp and drove up to Sunrise. Unfortunately the clouds were building and had already settled over the ridges by mid-morning. We weren’t going to be swayed from our plans though, and hoped that the skies would clear again like they had that morning.

Our plan for the day was pretty straight-forward: hike our gear the 1.5 miles in to Sunrise Camp (we still had a night on our permit from our interrupted backpacking trip!) and then do the Burroughs Mountain Loop, which conveniently loops through the campground.

We set up our tent in a great site above Shadow Lake, had a snack, and then hit the trail.

Hike Name: Burroughs Mountain Loop
Date: Sunday September 4
Location: Mount Rainier Nat’l Park
Approx. drive time from home: 4 hours
Distance: 4.2 mi. / 6.8 km (loop from Sunrise Camp, not TH)
Elevation gain: 2600 ft / 790 m
Max. elevation: 7400 ft / 2250 m

Time on trail: 2 hours

View from the overlook above Sunrise Camp

Departing from Sunrise Camp, we headed south and west, climbing along the east side of a ridge to gain a great overlook spot. The trail climbed steadily, curving along the outer edge of First Burroughs until it met a junction near the summit.

We took a short break near the junction, watching as the clouds opened and closed over the peaks and ridges.

Next, we ventured west towards Second Burroughs. This section of trail is a spur from the loop, but also continues down to Glacier Basin, nearly 2000 feet below! Sunrise’s network of trails really does have something for everyone.

​We took our lunch break on Second Burroughs, among a crowd of a few dozen people. Unfortunately the weather started to really turn, becoming windier, cloudier, and colder. It looked like the mountain would hide from us for the rest of the day.

Cloudy skies over Mount Rainier

We headed back towards First Burroughs and then down the northwest part of the loop, arriving at the pass above Frozen Lake that we had come through a few days earlier. It was somewhat disappointing to not be able to look down in Berkeley Park or catch a glimpse of Mystic Lake from the Burroughs. Something for next time, right?

We had considered hiking the 1.3 miles to Fremont Lookout, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort with the clouds settling in lower on the ridges. Instead, we completed our loop, dropping down into the meadow where Sunrise Camp is nestled.

The rest of the afternoon was spent quietly in the tent. We did venture out once a small rain shower passed, hiking a few minutes down to Shadow Lake.

After dinner we noticed the clouds were breaking up a bit and so decided to head up to the nearby overlook. It was definitely a game of hide’n’seek with the peak!

Peek-a-boo with the peak.

We headed back down to camp after the sun disappeared for good and snuggled into our tent for the night, glad to have a couple extra layers to keep us warm!

We woke up to our alarm, ringing a pre-sunrise get up. Sunrise at Sunrise? Absolutely! I stepped out of the tent to clear skies and a lightly frosted landscape. We got our breakfast gear together and once again headed up to the overlook.

The sunrise on the mountain was phenomenal, especially from such a great vantage point. I had a hard time deciding where to look. East to catch the sun as it rises above the meadows and ridges of Sunrise? Or watch as the colours change so subtly on Mount Rainier?

It always surprises me how long it takes for the sun to rise in the mountains. In the end I had lots of time to watch and enjoy the changing light in both directions.


 ​Sunrise is a truly beautiful area of Mount Rainier to explore. We were lucky enough to get a taste of much of it, spending a couple nights at backcountry sites, a couple nights at a front country campground, hiking low, hiking high, seeing sunsets and sunrises.

We tend to be so busy with our everyday lives, but taking the time to really see a beautiful place like Mount Rainier National Park can help us to find balance. I encourage you to get out and explore your nearby wild places. You never know what you may take home with you.

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