Pinnacle Saddle: 100 Classic Hike of Washington

Pinnacle Saddle in Mount Rainier National Park is a short and spicy hike with unimaginable views from start to finish. The short hike with substantial elevation gain offers views of the spectacular Mount Rainier and also the breathtaking valley leading to Mount Adams and Mount Hood. 

A short and spicy hike is a short hike with substantial elevation gain. In contrast, a short and sweet hike is a short hike with little elevation gain. 

The Pinnacle Saddle is an underrated hike in Mount Rainier National Park and should not be overlooked by visitors to the park. On the Paradise side of the park, the accessibility is easy to access. With the option to hike to Pinnacle Peak with more elevation gain, it is a favorite spot for climbers in the park. 

In this blog post we will cover general information about the trail, important access information, what it’s like to hike the trail, and other amazing hikes in the area. 

Hiked: July 24th, 2023

Exploren Borgen hiking to Pinnacle Saddle in Mount Rainier National Park, a 100 Classic Hike of Washington
Views of Mount Rainier on the Pinnacle Saddle Trail

Table of Contents

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General Information

Mount Rainier peaking through the trails along the Pinnacle Saddle Trail
Glimpse of Mount Rainier on the Trail

Region:  Mount Rainier

Distance: 2.5 miles

Level: Challenging

Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft

Time: 3 hours +

When to Go:  June – Sept.

Pass/Permit?: America the Beautiful

Dogs Allowed?:  No

Map to Trailhead

Pinnacle Saddle is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Nisqually tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.

Accessing Pinnacle Saddle

Accessing the trailhead is relatively straightforward so long as you remember to access the trail from the Paradise side of the park! The long winding road into the park has numerous pull offs on the way to Paradise, one of which is Reflection Lake.

Getting to the Trailhead

Enter via the WEST entrance of Mount Rainier National Park through Elbe. You’ll know if you’re driving through Elbe if you see the different train cars for dining and overnight stays. Continuing through the park entrance, you will reach a junction to Reflection Lake. Turn Right and park at the Reflection Lake parking lot. Across the street is the trailhead for Pinnacle Saddle.

Trailhead Facilities

There were NO trailhead facilities at reflection lake. The closest facilities were a pull off prior to the turn off.


This trail is within National Park boundaries and you will need to enter with a National Park Pass or pay the standard daily entrance fee of $30

There are a number of different passes that grant access to Mount Rainier National Park including a standard pass, annual pass(Mount Rainier NP Only), and Free Days. 

If you frequent National Parks more than THREE times a year, I would suggest purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass which grants unlimited access to National Parks and Forests for an entire year. The cost is $80 which pays for itself in three visits to National Parks in a year. An America the Beautiful pass works in National Parks and Forests. 

If you would like to purchase an America the Beautiful Pass, you can purchase one here!

Season to Visit Pinnacle Saddle

Pinnacle Saddle is best accessed from July to October. While the Saddle is accessible during periods of high snow pack for snowshoeing, it is highly recommended to use a GPS device to find and follow a proper trail.

I would recommend hiking this trail during the summer months to view the full vantage of summer wildflowers and a snow free trail.

Hiking to Pinnacle Saddle

This trail is so short and spicy it is challenging to break it up into different sections, but if it were to be broken up, I would say that there is an initial wooded section and exposed section.

Pinnacle Saddle: Wooded Section

The beginning part of the Pinnacle Saddle Trail in Mount Rainier

The wooded section of the trail begins right across the street from the parking lot marked with a small sign. From the first step onto the trail, you’re gaining elevation with every step. With glimpses of Mount Rainier between tree breaks, it teases what is to come.

Foxglove flowers on the Pinnacle Saddle Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
Foxglove Wildflowers
Beginning Steps of the Pinnacle Saddle Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
Trail Views of Pinnacle Saddle

The wooded section has beautiful wildflowers, a bubbling brook, and luscious green trees. The trail is relatively level and wide in this section making it easy to leisurely enjoy the trail. Once you pass the stream in this section, about 0.5 miles in, you’re nearing the exposed section of the trail. Take in the last few moments of shade, especially on a hot day, and enter the exposed section. 

Pinnacle Saddle: Exposed Section

The exposed section of the trail, while hot on a summer day, is breathtaking. It seems almost wild that you’re hiking away from Mount Rainier and that the views could get any better than what is behind you, but just wait.

Mount Rainier in the clouds along the trail
Mount Rainier in the Clouds

The Exposed section of the trail is more rocky, so definitely watch where you’re stepping! What I have always been impressed by in Mount Rainier National Park is the work the trailcrew has done to create beautiful rock walls on the bounder sections of trails. They are truly a work of art.

Check Out Another Favorite in Mount Rainier NP: Naches Peak Loop

Continuing along the trail you’ll reach a few longer switchbacks and if you’re lucky you might even see a marmot! Once you are walking next to the tower rock cliff and see the cave (do not walk up to the cave, it is off trail!) you are just around the corner from spectacular views.

View of Mount Adams on the Pinnacle Saddle Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Adams at the Pinnacle Saddle

As you hike towards the Saddle, a space will open up to the valley on the other side with captivating views of Mount Adams. Take some time to take it all in!

Past Pinnacle Saddle

The Pinnacle Saddle Continues to Pinnacle Peak
Trail to Pinnacle Peak

If you want to continue your hike for even more views, there is a route to Pinnacle Peak which is included on the AllTrails Route. It adds 0.5miles and 600 ft of gain. 

It is popular for rock climbers to climb the various peaks. Please note that none of the trails past the saddle are maintained by the park and you will have to hike at your own risk to get there.

Should Pinnacle Saddle be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?

I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should it be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?

Marmot on the Pinnacle Saddle Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
Marmot Hanging Out on the Trail

Pinnacle Saddle should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. The short and spicy trail offers spectacular views in the park with little time commitment. I love that the trail was easy to navigate and that the main focus of the trail wasn’t actually on Mount Rainier(even though she is oh so pretty!). The trail was starting to get busier as we were hiking down with people of all ages. Mount Rainier National Park has plenty of accessible trails for people of all ages, definitely add this to your list. 

Views along the the Pinnacle Saddle Trail
Marmot Looking Over the Trail

Let me know in the comments if you think Pinnacle Saddle should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington! 

If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here.

Pinnacle Saddle Trail Guide Pinterest Pin
Pinnacle Saddle Blog Post Pinterest Pin

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