The tallest peak in the Tatoosh Range, Unicorn Peak is an moderate 6 mile round-trip day climb that provides commanding views of Mt. Rainier National Park. In early season, it is a good mix of hiking, snow travel, and low 5th class technical rock climbing. The views of Mt. Rainier from the summit spire are breathtaking. See the Snow Lake page for a description of the approach and a map of the summit pinnacle routes.
Take Interstate 5 to exit 68. Turn east onto US highway 12 and continue for 30 miles to Morton and state highway 7. Take highway 7 North to a junction in the small town of Elbe. Turn right and follow this road through Ashford into Rainier National Park. There are signs for Mt. Rainier National Park at nearly every junction.
To reach the West entrance by Longmire, take highway 7 from Tacoma 35 miles South to Elbe. At the junction, follow the signs to Mt. Rainier National Park and drive East about 15 miles to the park entrance.
Once inside the park, follow the main road to Longmire and continue East past the turn off to Paradise and onto Steven's Canyon Road. Unicorn Peak is in the Tatoosh Range south of Mt. Rainier. The standard route begins at the Snow Lake Trailhead on Steven's Canyon Road. about 3 miles East of Reflection Lakes.
A $10 fee or park pass is required to enter Mt. Rainier National Park. Once inside the park, you do not need to pay to climb the Unicorn. Camping is regulated, but there are several pay and free sites to choose from in the park.
When To Climb
The Unicorn can be climbed nearly anytime throughout the year. However, the early season climbing is remarkable and provides easy access to the upper mountain via a few steep snowfields (much easier than the scree-slogging alternative). By mid-summer, most of the snow has melted out and you'll be in for a couple of miles of picking your way up talus and bolder covered slopes. During winter months, backcountry skiers and snowboarders will really enjoy the snow filled bowls on the north side of the ridge.
Camping in Mt. Rainier National Park is regulated by the National Park Service. There are many campgrounds within park boundaries - some pay, some free. There are also limited backcountry camping permits available.
The most convenient place to camp is at the Snow Lake camp. This campground consists of two primitive campsites located near the outlet on the North end of Snow Lake. These sites share a pit toilet and a bear pole. If the Snow Lake camp is booked, there are a handful of other trailside campgrounds in the area. You can also obtain a permit for backcountry and alpine camping. Permits for all wilderness camping are free and can be obtained at any ranger station during the summer. During the winter, the Longmire Museum is the only place open and they will set you up with a permit. Click here for more information on wilderness camping.
Mount Rainier National Park has 6 car-camping areas with a total of 600 sites that are open during the summer months. Sunshine Point campground is the only car-campground open year round. Fees to use these facilities are from $9 to $15 per night. Click here for more information on car camping in the area.
More information on climbing conditions and regulations can be gathered from the Mount Rainier National Park headquarters at Rainier National Park Website or by calling 360-569-2211, extension 2314. Current weather forcasts can be found at The Weather Channel or Intellicast
Tatoosh Traverse Variation
A popular route variation is to combine Unicorn Peak with several others in the Tatoosh Range and do a traverse. Experienced hikers will be able to bag Stevens Peak, Unicorn Peak, Castle Peak, Pinnacle Peak, Plummer Peak and Eagle Peak in one long day. Click here for more information on the Tatoosh Traverse.