Alpine Touring in Style at the Mount Tahoma Hut and Trail System
During the winter season, it can be hard to maintain the active lifestyle we live in the summer. When its too cold and wet for running, cycling, or climbing our options can seem somewhat limited. That said, just because its wet outside doesnt mean we must relegate ourselves to the couch of our Puyallup, WA apartment for the next several months. If you want to avoid that dreaded winter slump, consider heading down to Mount Rainier National Park and exploring the Mount Tahoma Hut and Trail system.
The MTAA system is the largest No-Fee, hut-to-hut trail system in North America! The system has trails of varying difficulty, ensuring there is an option for cross-country skiers of all skill levels. Visitors have access to roughly 50 miles of trails, 20 of which are groomed, 4 huts and a yurt.
I should point out that the term Hut only loosely applies in this situation. For me, the word brings to mind images of old dilapidated buildings or lean-tos. A tiny, open-to-the-elements structure you might expect to find along sections of the Appalachian Trail. The structures you find along the MTAA system are no such huts. No, these are full blown cabins - some of which can sleep up to 14 people!
These huts are outfitted with kitchen tables, chairs and even silverware, so youve got everything you need to enjoy gourmet cooking in the backcountry. Propane stoves, LED lights and sleeping pads on hand mean you only need to bring a sleeping bag, food and your gear to enjoy a night of serene tranquility in the shadow of Mount Rainier.
Visitors have several options when visiting the trail system. The North District offers only one hut, but is the most accessible to individuals who are newer to the sport. A popular family destination, The Copper Creek Hut is a short 3.2 mile track from the trailhead at Sno-Park A. These groomed trails are suitable for adventurers of all skill levels.
The remaining huts, along with the yurt, can be reached from the South District. From the trailhead at Sno-Park B, visitors begin with a moderate climb for a little under 1.5 miles, before reaching the saddle. From here you can head right, toward the high hut, or left and head toward Snow Bowl hut and the Yurt. Many athletes choose to combine these trails in a number of ways to create a longer loop. If this sounds like your style, consider starting at Sno-Park B, heading first to the High Hut, then doubling back and heading to the Yurt for the night.
One of the most amazing things about MTAA is that they are a non-profit organization. This means that, apart from a nominal $15 permit processing fee for overnight stays, the system is open to the public for free! Thats right; day trekkers can stop by any of the huts or the yurt during the day, use the facilities to eat lunch, then head back out before it gets too late - all at no cost! As with all things like this, the leave no trace rule applies.
Reservations can be made in person at Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford, or right at the MTTA office on weekends during the winter season. They are offered on a first come, first served basis, so plan your trip in advance!
By the time you get back from your excursion into the snowy abyss, youll likely be exhausted. You may struggle even making it all the way into your bed. But that feeling of being so spent that you begin to debate whether or not you actually need to eat is exactly why you headed out there in the first place, isnt it? So make a cup of tea, curl up in front of the fireplace in your Willow Hill apartment for rent in Puyallup, WA, then do nothing but sit for a while. Youve earned it.