"I would definitely recommend this trip to a friend."The trailhead sign describes this hike as "Hot and steep, start early and carry plenty of water." The Adventure Guide to Mount Rainier says, "It isn't a popular hike, being fairly remote and steep, but offers splendid views of Mount Rainier." Believe it. The trail gains 3400' in 4 miles. It starts steep and stays steep.
The first mile is in forest, then loops back and into steep slopes of bracken fern and a few vine maples. After 2000' of climbing the first view of the E side of the mountain stops you. Perfect views of the Paradise, Cowlitz, Ingraham and Emmons glaciers. With binoculars you can pick out the tents at Camp Muir and Ingraham Flats and see the climbing routes along the Disappointment Cleaver. There's rock outcrop just off the trail for a first rest stop. But, the views continue for the rest of the hike.
From here on the trail passes through meadows and in and out of Alpine Fir stands. On July 7th bear grass, lupine, paintbrush, avalanche lilies, various heathers and phlox were in bloom. I startled a nesting blue grouse who "kildeered" me along the trail for 50'before doubling back to her nest. The book says herds of elk are around in the fall.
At the top is the historic Shriner Peak lookout tower which was being worked on when I was there. One of the workmen said they had seen a bear (black, I assume) and two cubs in the meadow below, but not for the last two days. There are two campsites, one of which has views of Adams, Hood, St Helens and Rainier. No water, not much shade.
I started at 9:30, got there at 11:30, passing 3 on the way up. At quarter to 1, two parties arrived and I passed three more on the way down. Not bad for a Rainier trail on a sunny early summer day.
Trailhead is on rt 123 a few miles N of the Stevens Canyon entrance to the park (outside the fee area).
Note: This is backcountry wilderness travel. You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards and taking the necessary precautions.