Departing from the far side of White River Campground's D Loop, the Emmons Moraine Trail is an ideal and relatively easy day-hike excursion that is perfect for the whole family, and as the name suggests, provides the closest views of Emmons Glacier* short of being on the glacier itself.
Under a forest canopy dominated by western hemlock, the first part of the hike ventures west along the broad and well-used Glacier Basin Trail. Set at the bottom of the 3,000-foot deep valley, the trail traverses the slope leading up to Sunrise and features numerous side creek crossings which make the steep tumble down to the milky White River.
After a mile you'll come to the intersection where climbers will likely continue straight for an additional 2.2 miles to Glacier Basin. To get onto the Emmons Moraine Trail, a 1-mile long spur, you'll turn left here and cross over the Inter Fork. Because of the quantity of snowmelt that runs off of the massive volcano, the trail adjacent to the crossing can often be washed out or at difficult to find. Once on the moraine, views of Mount Rainier, Emmons Glacier, the White River, and Goat Island Mountain are nearly constant.
* Uniquely, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated mountain in the contiguous U.S. Of the stratovolcano's 26 major glaciers, massive Emmons Glacier is its mountain's largest by area and the largest in the lower 48. Starting at nearly 14,000 feet, the glacier descends 8,700 feet to its snout at the headwaters of the White River. Carbon Glacier, on Mount Rainier's northern slope, is the largest glacier in the lower 48 in terms of volume and length.
Note: Be sure to keep an eye out for black bears, particularly along the Glacier Basin Trail. Although the trail is heavily used, sightings are common.