Rainier and Cowlitz Chimneys from summit of Barrier Peak
Cowlitz Chimneys from summit of Barrier Peak
Barrier Peak, along with Governors Ridge and Tamanos Mountain, is one of the high peaks which rings the valley containing Owyhigh Lakes. It lies within Mount Rainier National Park and is connected via a long ridge with Governors Ridge. As such, an ascent of Barrier Peak is often combined with one of Governors Ridge as well. Barrier Peak provides great views of the nearby peaks such as Tamanos, Governors Ridge, the Cowlitz Chimneys, Banshee Peak, and, of course, Mount Rainier. The Goat Rocks Wilderness, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens are easily viewable from the summit as well.
Barrier is a moderate scramble which, depending on the route, can give any level of challenge. While there is no good "climbing" rock, the scramble can involve challenging scrambling terrain and loose rock coming from the saddle near Governors Ridge, meadowy strolls coming from the west, or steep snow coming from the basins below the peak.
Barrier is a fun peak which is easily accessible and is perfect for a short day in the mountains.
Tamanos Mountain from Owhyhigh Lakes
Final Scrambling to the Summit on West Side of Barrier Peak
Grassy Slopes on West Side of Barrier Peak
Descending the West Ridge of Barrier Peak
From Enumclaw drive SR-410, past the Crystal Mountain Resort, and into the White River Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park. At 2 miles from the park entrance and 1 mile beyond Shaw Creek, find the Owyhigh Lakes trailhead, elevation 3700 feet.
Hike the Owyhigh Lakes trail due south up the Shaw Creek valley. After hiking 4.5 miles, you will be above Owyhigh Lakes to your east and Barrier Peak at the southern end of the valley. Continue south beyond the last of the lakes (about 1/2 mile more) and turn due east, heading towards a saddle between Governors Ridge and Barrier Peak. There is no easy route through the forest, and you will need to brushbeat a bit, but not for long, as you will soon break out of the forest and into open scree and heather slopes. Head up the saddle and drop to the other side. If climbing only Barrier Peak, traverse right (south) and climb along the ridge towards Barrier Peak.
An alternative (and much easier) route lies to the west of Barrier. Ascend grassy western slopes around to the southern side of Barrier Peak and ascend easy meadows and rock to the summit. For a much more alpine experience, climb to the Northern Face of Barrier and ascend up a basin which is usually snow-filled in early to mid-summer. The slope becomes quite steep at the top and gives this scramble a more alpine feel that the easy slopes to the south.
Be sure to bring an ice ax during all seasons, and bring a helmet if climbing Barrier by any route other than the grassy south slopes.
Roundtrip Distance: 11 miles
Elevation Gain: About 2800 feet
Difficulty: Mainly Class 2 with some Class 3 scrambling at times.
Red Tape & Camping
Steep snow on the North of Barrier
Snow Basin in the northern flank of Barrier Peak
There is no red tape on this trip at all. Since the trailhead is on SR-410, there is no entrance fee to the park, nor is there any parking pass required at the trailhead. There are no permits required on the trail. Camping is restricted, however, and one should check with the Sunrise entrance ranger station upon entering Mount Rainier National Park. Check the external links below for information on camping permits in Mount Rainier National Park.
Descending to Owyhigh Lakes
Barrier behind the trees at left from near Owyhigh Lakes.
For information including road closures and camping restrictions, you can contact Mount Rainier National Park at: Mt. Rainier National Park
Another great site is this excellent Mt. Rainier climbing blog, which gives up-to-date snowpack and road conditions on Mt. Rainier and the all of the roads: Mt. Rainier Climbing Page