Canyoneering Prospects In Mount Rainier National Park

Stevens Creek may have some potential in the area up steam of the park road. Also Maple Creek may have some good parts in the last mile before it flows into Stevens Creek.

The Box Canyon of the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River is a spectacular slot canyon about a half mile long. It is three feet wide and up to 190 feet deep. It is a popular tourist attraction and easy to get to. Just drive the park road eleven miles east from Paradise to the signed parking lot. The road crosses the slot canyon on a stone bridge which provides good views into its depths. A trail leads in a quarter mile to a foot bridge over the canyon and more views. The head of the slot can be reached by bushwhacking upstream on the east side of the canyon. This could very well be the most challenging slot canyon in the U.S. No one has canyoneered it. The fast moving, murky, glacial fed waters of the river have deterred any one from trying. There is an unconfirmed rumor that it was kayaked once. That would present significant problems since it is too narrow to use a paddle, and there are rocks sticking up in the middle of it. Downstream of the slot, the canyon is still narrow with steep walls. There is a small natural bridge. Nickel Creek is a narrow tributary with a big waterfall.

Map: Mount Rainier East Quad.

Van Trump Creek is about two miles long. The upper end starts with Comet Falls, a three hundred foot mostly overhanging drop. At the bottom end, 70 foot Christine Falls drops into a beautiful punchbowl next to the park road. In between are so many drops we gave up trying to count. An excellent trail roughly parallels the creek. There are some wide open areas where access to the creek is easy. The eastern tributary of the creek joins below Comet Falls. This tributary has some nice falls of its own. A complete descent of Van Trump Creek looks to be considerably harder than any canyon yet attempted in Washington or Oregon. The water flow is substantial. The drops are frequently back to back, with strong current between, and few, if any, natural anchoring possibilities. Bolts are permitted in the national park. Low water will be crucial for any chance of success. Van Trump Creek is fed by high elevation snowfields. When we scouted it on a cloudy June day it had much less flow than a hot sunny day two months later in August. Cold weather will probably produce the lowest flows. Like the Box Canyon of the Cowlitz and Ladder Creek, Van Trump Creek may require a level of swift water skills currently found only among the very best Euro-canyoneers.

The following photos were provided by Mike Dallin. Other excellent canyon photos can be found on his website at

Click on the pictures below to enlarge.