Of all the day hikes in Washington's Mount Rainier National Park, none exposes the phenomenal power of Mount Rainier's glaciers more than hiking on the Sunrise Rim Trail.
Like most there-and-back trails, hikers can choose the degree of difficulty by simply choosing their return point. For the Sunrise Rim Trail their are two lovely options that are sure to appeal to a wide-variety of visitors:
The first option is a casual, kid-friendly, 3.0-mile round-trip stroll down to Yakima Park to enjoy the still waters and wildflowers surrounding Shadow Lake along with a 0.2-mile diversion to the Emmons Overlook. Along the way you'll pass Sunrise Camp and tightly packed groves of Pacific silver and subalpine fir. Once at the Overlook, you'll stand on top of a well-crafted stone viewpoint that towers roughly 2,800 feet above the White River and commands panoramic views of Emmons Glacier, Little Tahoma, Goat Island Mountain, and 14,409-foot Mount Rainier.
The second option is 6.6 miles total, and this route continues from the Emmons Overlook an additional 1.8 miles to the top of 7,402-foot Burroughs Mountain, the highest point in the park that is accessible by maintained hiking trail. This 1.8-mile addition traverses the glacially-carved rim, with constantly exposed views of Rainier on a relatively narrow trail though rocky scree fields to gain elevation up to the first Burrough. From the top you can either head back down the Sunrise Rim Trail or make a loop of the hike (6 miles total) by returning on the Sourdough Ridge Trail, where you'll have glimpses north as far as Mount Baker on clear days.
Note: Because of its 6,400-foot elevation and the extensive snowpack throughout the higher elevations of Mount Rainier National Park, the road leading up to Sunrise can be closed as late as early July and closes again in October. Those who want to hike the Sunrise Rim Trail have roughly a four-month window of opportunity.