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New assessment leads Mount Rainier officials to keep Comet Falls Trail closed

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on July 18, 2012 at 9:50 am |
July 18, 2012 1:07 pm
These photos show the massive amount of snow deposited in the canyon below Comet Falls by an avalanche that occurred sometime earlier this year. The avalanche buried the trail leading to the falls under tens of feet of snow and debris. (Mount Rainier National Park)

After further assessing the situation, Mount Rainier National Park officials have opted to keep close the final portion of Comet Falls Trail. The trail had been scheduled to reopen Tuesday, but park revisited the situation Tuesday and decided to maintain the closure, said ranger Daniel Keebler.

The trail is closed because of hazardous conditions, created by an avalanche, from below the Van Trump Creek crossing, about 1.6 miles from the trailhead, to the stream crossing above Comet Falls. The avalanche filled the canyon bottom with snow and broken trees. The trail is buried beneath many feet of snow and debris.

Keebler said it is not possible to view the falls from the open section of trail, nor is it possible to access Van Trump Park via the Comet Falls Trail.

Hikers should not attempt to traverse the closed section. Park officials do not know how much snow is overlying the creeks, and the steep, uneven surface of the snow slopes down into dangerous areas. Breaking through the snow into the rushing water below could easily lead to disaster, he said.

The 1.6-mile section from the trailhead to the closure remains open and provides views of cascading Van Trump Creek. The trailhead is off the Longmire-to-Paradise Road, about 200 yards downhill from the Christine Falls viewpoint. The trail is considered strenuous.

The Comet Falls Trail is a summertime favorite for those hikers in good physical condition. The trail’s namesake waterfall shoots over a dramatic cliff into the steep canyon traversed by the trail.

For more information on park trails and current trail conditions, go to the park’s website.

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