The road to Sunrise will be closing next month, so we felt it was time to get up high again. Gabe has been wanting to hike to Second Burroughs since he got his new camera, and I thought it would be fun to take a different path than the normal Sourdough Ridge Trail that we’ve taken many times. We got a decently early start, and the sun was shining brightly. There was, however, a hint of fall in the air, a bit of a chill at 6400 feet elevation.
We quickly visited the rangers in the Visitor Center, got our Passports stamped, and packed our packs. We were on the trail by 11:00.
We took the road that leads down to Shadow Lake for the first part of the loop. I wanted to get a couple of miles out of the way and get warmed up for hiking before having to climb straight up out of the Sunrise parking lot.
We noticed that there were some plants set out near the junction of the Shadow Lake and Frozen Lake trails. It looked like they were getting ready to do some restoration work nearby.
We took a left at the junction, and soon were at the Sunrise Camp area, where we gratefully took advantage of the outhouse (with a real seat!). We decided to stop at Shadow Lake to eat lunch, as it was getting close to noon.
What a quiet and peaceful spot! The water was so clear that lots of bugs were floating on the surface, including many bees. We hypothesized that the water was so clear, the bees couldn’t see it and accidentally landed where they thought it was solid ground. We saved one bumblebee, but couldn’t reach the rest.
I was delighted to see gentians in bloom around the lake, but most other flowers were already faded and going to seed.
After a short rest for food, we continued on toward the Glacier Overlook and around the back side of First Burroughs.
This is where the majority of the climbing takes place, and there are a few exposed sections where you’ll want to keep a close eye on young children. There is a great viewpoint at the first switchback, where you can see down to the Emmons Glacier, up to the Mountain, and down the White River Valley.
This is a great spot to observe geological processes in action. Moraines, glacial till, crevasses, lava flows – you can see it all from here.
The Glacier Overlook would be a good spot to turn around if you have young children or have had enough climbing.
We didn’t stay at the viewpoint for too long, as we knew we had a bunch more climbing to do. We could now see parts of the trail ahead as it traversed the side of First Burroughs.
Parts of the trail are sheltered by scrubby, tenacious trees, but much of the trail is rocky and exposed. The good news is that you can see The Mountain ahead of you the whole time, encouraging you to continue. We came across a sign that explained a little about the unique environment here.
The Alpine plants and soil of this area of the park are apparently similar to arctic tundra, and are fragile and easily eroded. It’s important to stay on the trail in these sections, and travel lightly through these special habitats.
As the trail comes up toward the top of First Burroughs, the grade eases slightly, and we started seeing hikers on the other trails in the area.
We took another rest for food and water before tackling the final trek over to Second Burroughs. Annika was fading a bit by this point, and it took a lot of encouragement from me to help her continue. We hiked across the top of First Burroughs, admiring the strange flat landscape here.
We enjoyed the easier grade, and then it was time to grunt our way up the last 300 feet to the top of Second Burroughs.
(If you’ve had enough climbing, you can take the trail back down to Frozen Lake from here, and back to Sunrise via the Sourdough Ridge Trail or the lower trail.) This time went faster than last year; I guess we are getting stronger. Gabe still outpaced us by several minutes, though. This kid got his father’s speed (he definitely didn’t get it from me!)
We were thrilled to be up at the top of Second Burroughs. What a stupendous, awe-inspiring view!
The Mountain herself is so dramatic and huge from that vantage point. You can see the wrinkles of the glaciers, the sharp rocks poking through, and the interesting clouds blowing over. Looking north, you can see down to Berkely Park, Fremont Lookout, and other peaks and valleys. The Seattle skyline is barely visible in the far distance. Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Stuart, and other summits and ranges beckon from afar. Ravens fly just above your head, and peregrine falcons hunt among the cliffs. Watch out for the aggressive chipmunks, though; Gabe and I both had some crawl right up onto us! (Please don’t feed them!)
We took a nice long rest at the top of Second Burroughs. The ground is covered with shaley rocks, making for a lumpy seat, but you truly can’t beat the view.
The breeze picked up here for a bit, causing us to put another layer of clothes on. Gabe took a bunch of photos and time lapse videos of clouds. I really wanted to stay longer, but we needed to make our way back down the trail so we could get back to the car for dinner. We trudged down the slope, stopping very briefly at Frozen Lake just to rest our feet.
Along the way, we saw horned larks and American pipits.
Then we took the Sourdough Ridge Trail up and down and back to Sunrise. We were beat! But what a great hike this was.
Some miscellaneous notes: We saw several park rangers posted along the trail at different spots. It is good to see official people out there to answer questions and provide direction to the masses. Once you get past Shadow Lake, there is nowhere to get water. Make sure you bring enough for everyone for the entire trip. Hikers are not allowed to access Frozen Lake. On this hike, for some reason, I had about twice as much food as I should have brought. By the time we were climbing up the back of First Burroughs, I was regretting the amount of food and water I had in my pack. But, I did get a complement from one lady who said it is good to see kids out on the trails who are prepared for the environment.
If You Go: My GPS tracked the distance as 6.74 miles, with 1588 feet elevation gain. We were on the trail for almost 6 hours (we rested a lot!). Park at the Sunrise Visitor Center. Check the NPS website to make sure the road is open, and ask rangers earlier in the summer if the snowfields have melted enough to make this a safe trail. There can be some dangerous snowfields along the more exposed sections that are impassable early in the season.