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Three Lakes via Laughingwater Creek

Mount Rainier Area


Mount Rainier Area -- SE - Cayuse Pass/Stevens Canyon
View map below


13.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 2800 ft.
Highest Point: 5000 ft.


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Road Closed 11.9.21: The highway to this trailhead is closed for the winter season. It will reopen in the spring when the snow can be cleared.

Laughingwater Creek conjures up a nice stroll alongside a bubbling creek but read on; the most scenic lower part of the creek keeps hikers well above the creek. Initially, at several spots along the hike, you can hear the creek but you won't see it. As you hike, you'll hear the laughing water, but rarely will you see it. In fact, there is only one point, halfway up the trail where you can safely descend to the water.

From the parking strip, cross the highway and start your hike on a wide trail heading uphill. Most of the lower half of the trail is wide enough that two people can hike side-by-side.

After 1.9 miles, the trail crests at a ridge and drops a few feet to a saddle. On the left (north) side of the trail is a small pond filled, usually filled with mosquito larvae. Here, you're at elevation 3000 feet. The old-growth trees along the trail are impressive.

The trail continues a couple more miles uphill and reaches a high point at a swampy meadow at 5000 feet. This area may be the source of Laughingwater Creek. The main trail descends, losing 150 feet elevation from the marshy meadow high point to the National Park Patrol Cabin, adjacent to two of the three lakes at 4850 feet elevation.

There are two designated, numbered campsites and one group camp near the cabin, but away from the lakes. The third and largest lake is 0.2 miles beyond. It is actually outside the National Park Boundary in the William O. Douglass Wilderness. This is a beauty of a lake, and its lakeshore is not as trampled as other lakes further east. Flowers abound.

Historical Note: Old topo maps may show a trail branching off prior to the swampy area, but it cannot be seen. Nor are any of the branch trails north to Sheep Lake (leaving at the high point) or south to East Boundary Trail distinctly visible. None of them are marked, although both are shown on the Green Trails Map No. 271.


Three Lakes via Laughingwater Creek

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.7518, -121.5571 Open map in new window


Mount Rainier Area -- SE - Cayuse Pass/Stevens Canyon

Laughingwater Creek (#)

Mount Rainier National Park

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails (Nelson & Bauer - Mountaineers Books)

50 Hikes in Mount Rainier

USGS Chinook Pass

USGS Cougar Lake

Green Trails No 271 Bumping Lake

Buy the Green Trails Bumping Lake No. 271 map

Getting There

Drive Highway 123 northbound from Highway 12, past the entrance to Ohanapecosh campground, cross the Laughingwater Creek bridge and continue 0.1 miles beyond the bridge. Park on the west side of the road, elev. 2200 feet. Or, if you are coming from Cayuse Pass, this spot is only 0.1 mi. south of the Stevens Canyon entrance to the national park. On a side note, from the same parking strip another trail descends 0.2 miles to Silver Falls.

Road Closed 11.9.21: The highway to this trailhead is closed for the winter season. It will reopen in the spring when the snow can be cleared.

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Three Lakes via Laughingwater Creek

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