During our trip to Washington state in September of 2010, we had a couple of days set aside for hiking.  For one of the days, I wanted to visit Mount Rainier National Park for the first time.  So I began doing some research on hikes there and came across multiple favorable reviews and trip reports for Comet Falls.  My research revealed that it was one of the most popular hikes in the park and that on weekends the trail was sometimes crowded with families visiting the waterfall.  When we arrived in Mount Rainier National Park, it was literally pouring down rain and the weather was very overcast and gloomy.  On this day, we would not have our first ever view of Mount Rainier, that was for sure.  We came somewhat prepared to hike in wet weather, so we went ahead and did the hike we had planned.  But first we stopped by the visitor center and learned some of the history of Mount Rainier and also spoke with a park ranger about our hike.

The hike to Comet Falls begins in a parking area just past the Christine Falls turn-out (also a very pretty waterfall only one minute from the road) at an elevation of 3,600 feet.  Most of the time you are following close by the Van Trump Creek gorge.  There are endless spectacular views from forest clearings down into the gorge of the creek's waterfalls, but we were always careful as we were taking pictures, because it can be slippery and dangerous to get too close to the edge.  The trail climbs steeply through the forest, passing avalanche chutes, before emerging in a wide open area.  Eventually, we crossed the creek once again and followed a side creek up to the base of lower Comet Falls.  There are two spur trails which lead off of the main trail to both lower and upper Comet Falls.  So it is not necessary to attempt a dangerous climb or bypass to get from the base of the lower falls to the base of the upper falls.  Located at an elevation of 4,830 feet, Comet Falls plunges down 320 feet.  Explaining the origin of the waterfall name, the NPS site states: "One of the highest waterfalls in the park, Comet Falls was named because it resembles the tail of a comet. Or so some thought!"  During my visit, with my wife Daria and our friend Alesya (taking her first lifetime hike), Comet Falls was shrouded in the fog and clouds.  So we were not able to gain a full appreciation of its true beauty.  The lower fall was quite visible, but the upper fall was a lot harder to see.  Even so, I did get some decent pictures and will share those here in this report.  But to see what Comet Falls looks like under better weather conditions, simply check the first picture down below and you will be extremely impressed.  As I hope to make a Mount Rainier summit bid in the near future, perhaps I will have the chance to once again hike to Comet Falls and see it on the right day.  Also, I should note that the main trail continues far past Comet Falls (1.9 miles) to Van Trump Park (2.7 miles- a scenic meadow with views of Mount Rainier along the way) and Mildred Point (3.7 miles- with views of the Kautz Glacier).  But in view of the cloudy conditions and lack of views, we stopped at Comet Falls.
Sign at the trailhead reveals what Comet Falls looks like on a clear sunny day:
The muddy trail started off by climbing some stairs and heading into the forest:
Crossing a wooden walkway on the early part of the trail:
Alesya and Daria standing on the bridge which crosses Van Trump Creek:
Alesya standing above the raging creek waters which were flowing down by the bridge:
Alesya by some large moss-covered boulders which are reminiscent of what you might find in Yosemite:
Heading past some avalanche chutes in the late summer when there is no risk:
There were regular views down into Van Trump Creek gorge at some very pretty waterfallls:
Crossing through one of several rock slide areas:
The next three pictures give you some more views down into the gorge:
Steve hiking through the forest in Mount Rainier National Park:
Two more pictures of the trail passing through the forest and under some very large trees:
About halfway through the hike the trail comes out of the forest and into a clearing:
Daria and Alesya coming out of the forest.  Notice that we were hiking with umbrellas off and on due to the rain:
Looking down at the creek as it flows through this open area:
Yet another nice looking waterfall pouring over the edge:
In the next two pictures, we passed by some salmonberry (Rubus spectablis) bushes.  Non-commerical berry picking is allowed within the National Park:
Three pictures by a very scenic overlook point of a waterfall in Van Trump Creek gorge:
A side creek flows into the main creek at this spot in the gorge:
The water and waterfalls were definitely the highlight of this hike.  There were so many beautiful spots along the trail:
This sign claims Comet Falls is only 200 feet from here.  It's actually another 10 to 15 minutes of hiking to reach the base of the falls.  So I'm guessing this sign is just directing people to cross the bridge and soon have their first view of the falls:
Daria and Alesya crossing a makeshift bridge leading into the side canyon which contains the falls:
Some people may actually get confused by the sign and think this is Comet Falls, but it definitely is not.  In fact, I've heard that some people turn around after seeing these nice falls, which is a mistake since Comet Falls is only ten minutes away at this point:
Two more pictures of the main gorge area before heading up the side canyon:
Heading up the side canyon and looking for the two spur trails to the base of lower and upper Comet Falls:
We headed down the spur trail to the base of lower Comet Falls:
First view of lower Comet Falls and the creek which flows down from it:
Zooming in for a closer view of lower Comet Falls:
First view of upper Comet Falls, which is shrouded in fog and mist:
Daria's favorite picture of the lower falls, with Cow Parsnip flowers
(Heracleum lanatum-
parsley family):
Upper Comet Falls was very hard to see from this location:
A unique angle of the lower falls from the right hillside:
Three views of both upper and lower Comet Falls together from various locations:
Scrambling up the slippery hillside to the left to get some more pictures.  I slipped several times here and the slope is steep, so I don't recommend climbing this hillside:
One more picture of upper and lower Comet Falls together:
Next, we have five pictures of upper Comet Falls from various locations.  These were the best pictures I could get on this rainy day:
Alesya, Steve, and Daria stopping by the first bridge on the hike back down:
Briefly stopping at Christine Falls before heading out of the park:
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