Andrew and I are exploring off-trail backcountry routes and dispersed camping at Rainier NP this summer- always providing solitude, alpine vistas, and up-close glacial views. Tokaloo Rock, located on the quieter west side of Rainier, has been on our list for more than a year, and there isn’t a lot of information about it on the internet. After some intense map and Google Earth study, and reading a blog post from 2010 (thanks, RGervin), I reserved a backcountry permit for the Tokaloo Apline zone. Andrew restored my dad’s Trek bike from the 1980’s, promising a better ride than our last bike/backpacking trip. I opted to use my mom’s hand-me-down Trek hybrid bike. It was on!
The Westside Road has been closed to cars for more than 25 years due to rock slide hazzard. All gravel and more-or-less maintained, it is open to bikes and pedestrians. The ride from the Westside Road gate to the Saint Andrew’s Creek Trail is 8 miles and 1600 feet of elevation gain, one-way.
We loaded up the bikes and pet carrier (which Burt hates and has turned into a gear carrier) and started our ride at 9am. Mom’s bike is not especially made for off-road travel, and Andrew’s carrier load was heavy, so we switched half-way through to distribute the struggles.
After 2 hours, we made it to the Saint Andrew’s Creek Trailhead.
We hiked the nicely maintained Saint Andrew’s Creek trail, gloriously empty and filled with ripe huckleberries.
After an easy 2.5 miles and 1800 feet of gain, we arrived at the Wonderland Trail Junction and Klapatche Park campground. At 5500 feet elevation, the bugs arrived, so we put on our bug gear before heading south to Saint Andrew’s Park.
From Saint Andrew’s Lake, we exited the Wonderland Trail and followed an easterly boot pack up a ridge, to the Tokaloo Alpine area.
We set up camp on the only shaded bivy site we could find. One problem: the mosquitoes were out in full force. We wore wind jackets, bug nets, gloves, and permithrin-coated long pants as protection, despite the hot 80 degree temps. After dinner, we got into out tents at 6pm, hiding from the bugs. It was uncomfortably hot in the tent, so we drank a lot of water and tried to take our minds off it all by listening to Hidden Brain podcasts. Lol, we do this FOR FUN.
Pictured below: our camp, and me pouting about the bugs next to the bear can.
The sun set at 8:47pm, giving us some relief from the heat. We drifted asleep while watching the mosquitos attack our tent.
We awoke the next morning to… mosquitoes. We got ready quickly, and started towards Tokaloo. From camp, we would travel 3 miles and 2200 feet of gain to the summit.
Once we got into the alpine zone, winds picks up and provided us relief from the bugs. We hiked through a meadow filled with wildflowers, looking upon Emerald Ridge and the Tahoma Glacier. We kept our helmets on throughout the hike because we witnessed several rockfalls caused by goats on the ridge line. Part of the route requires traversing on or under cliffs – you know, places where goats hang out!
After a quick lunch break, we started the last bit to the top of Tokaloo, admiring Tokaloo Spire along the way.
The last 100 feet to the top is a bit exposed, but less so than it looks in pictures. The views were ridiculous!
We didn’t like how flakey the summit rock was, so we downclimbed and walked up to another high point on the ridge, towards the Puyallup Cleaver. After taking a break and eating some gummies, we started the long, 5-hour trek out.
We descended down the same way to hot bug land, quickly packed up camp, and hiked to our bikes.
- A thunder storm. Luckily, we were at low elevation and it passed quickly.
2. A bungee cord getting stuck in my bike chain ring, rendering it unable to ride uphill. I literally coasted 8 miles back to the car on a busted bike 😂 😂 😂
Total Elapsed Time: 2 days
Total Distance: 26 Miles (16 by bike, 10 by foot)
Total Gain: 6500 feet