Trail Description Distance, round-trip: Approximately 10.6 road miles + 6.6 trail miles = 17.2 miles Elevation gain: 2100 feet on the trail itself + more on the road Hiking time, round-trip: Approximately 7 hours on road + 5 hours on trail = 12 hours Wilderness camps: South Puyallup River Camp Emerald Ridge is aptly named for its emerald green subalpine meadows. During late July and August the meadows showcase a variety of brilliantly colored flowers. The first 1.5 miles of trail climbs gradually through old-growth forest to the South Puyallup Camp. From the camp, the trail becomes very rocky and climbs more steeply. Hiking boots are recommended because of the loose rocks. Once atop Emerald Ridge, please stay on the constructed trails and rock outcroppings. The delicate subalpine environment is easily denuded of vegetation by off-trail hiking and other uses. Along the Trail About 1.2 miles up the trail look for high columns of andesitic rock slanted vertically and twisted into geometric designs.
The hexagonal columns were formed during the cooling process after hot lava flowed through the valley thousands of years ago. Atop Emerald Ridge the vegetation changes from forest to subalpine. Hikers may enjoy superb views of the Tahoma Glacier and Mount Rainier. Trailhead Location One mile east of the Nisqually Entrance is the Westside Road junction. Turn here and continue up the Westside Road to where it ends (approximately 3 miles from the start of the road). Hike up the closed portion of the road to the Puyallup River trailhead (approximately 5.3 miles). Backpacking The South Puyallup River Camp is located 1.5 miles from the trailhead near the junction with the Wonderland Trail. Camping is not permitted atop Emerald Ridge because of the fragile nature of the area and the lack of suitable spots. Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available park-wide from Wilderness Information Centers, Ranger Stations, and Visitor Centers. Fires are prohibited. No pets on trails. Treat water before drinking.