If there was one waterfall that every visitor to Mount Rainier National Park should see, Comet Falls is it. Van Trump Creek hurtles from the lip of a lofty hanging valley, plunging in three steps flanked by lofty amphitheater cliffs of Andesite. The falls are usually cited as standing 320 feet tall - whether this figure was arrived at via trigonometric measures or topographic data or what is unknown. I had always been curious how accurate a number it was and had usually assumed it to not take into account the lower drops. Revisiting the falls in 2009 I was able to accurately measure the falls as dropping 462 feet in steps of 392, 51 and 19 feet. As has been seen in the past 10 years the falls may not retain that exact height for long. On August 14th 2001, a Glacial Debris Flow washed out of the Kautz Glacier and ran down the Van Trump Creek valley. The flow scoured the streambed clean of vegetation and in many places dug a canyon 5-20 feet deep in the soil and as a result the entire area around Comet Falls changed. The pool formerly at the base of the falls has been filled, and the streambed below the falls, which formerly resembled a sub alpine meadow, is now a 15 foot deep rocky scar on the valley floor. The floods of October 2003 appear to have removed most evidence of the muddy debris flow, but the scars left behind were only amplified. The lowermost tier of the falls, which technically did exist prior to the debris flows, was almost buried after the 2001 floods only to be uncovered and amplified to its current state as a plunging 19 foot fall after the 2003 event. Even if a little photogenic quality was sacrificed, the opportunity to see nature so rapidly changing the landscape, not to mention a world class waterfall, should put this at the top of any visitor's to-do list.
- Comet Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
Comet Falls was named for its striking resemblance to the tail of a comet during higher flow periods. Since the recession of the Van Trump Glacier, the volume of the creek has been reduced and it doesn't take on the characteristic shape as often.
Located between Longmire and Paradise, within Mount Rainier National Park. The Comet Falls trailhead is located 1/4 of a mile west of the bridge spanning Van Trump Creek at Christine Falls, or 2.3 miles east of the Cougar Rock Campground. The trail climbs approximately 1400 feet in the 1.7 mile hike to the falls. Van Trump Creek is crossed at 1/4 mile; Lower Van Trump Falls can be heard, but not seen, at 3/4 of a mile; Middle Van Trump Falls is passed at 1.4 miles, and the East Fork Van Trump Creek is crossed at 1.6 miles, below Bloucher Falls. Comet Falls will be visible shortly thereafter. The trail then proceeds to climb over 400 feet to Van Trump Park and Mildred Point, beyond the top of the falls.