Name of Waterfall

Comet Falls


Comet Falls is accessed via the Van Trump Park trail, between Longmire and Paradise on the south side of Mount Rainier National Park. The 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 mass of cars almost always parked along the road is hard to miss. 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; Van Trump Falls is passed at 1.4 miles, and the East Fork Van Trump Creek is crossed at 1.5 miles, below Bloucher Falls. Comet Falls will be visible shortly thereafter. The trail then proceeds to climb for another 700 above the falls to meadows in Van Trump Park.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 four steps flanked by lofty amphitheater cliffs of Andesite. The falls are usually cited as standing 320-feet tall, and whether this figure was arrived at via trigonometric measures or topographic data or what is unknown, but it has proven to be quite inaccurate. It seems likely that this estimate only took into account the two most prominent tiers of the falls, poorly estimating the height of the lower tier.
Upon our survey of the falls in 2009 we were able to accurately measure the overall height of the falls at 462 feet, which we again verified in 2014 to comprise of in individual steps of 78, 301, 52, and 19 feet, with the remaining 12-feet of difference made up in the cascading boulder-choked stream between the second and third tiers. The uppermost 78-foot tier can only be seen when looking directly at the upper tier of the falls, and while climbing up the switchbacks toward Van Trump Park, it cannot be seen from any of the viewpoints on the downstream side of the falls.
Van Trump Creek has been the subject of a considerable amount of abuse at the hands of mother nature over the last decade or so. On August 14th 2001, a Jökulhaup, or Glacial Outburst Flood poured out from under 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 main tier of the falls was filled entirely, and the streambed below the falls, which formerly resembled an idyllic sub alpine meadow, is now a 15-20 foot deep rocky scar on the valley floor. Further, floods in October 2003 then scoured away much of the muddy evidence of the 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 flood, but then uncovered entirely and nearly doubled in height after the 2003 event. In the winter of 2012 a massive avalanche thundered over the cliffs at the falls, knocking over every tree in its path, and burying the valley in as much as 200-feet of snow which lingered for the entire summer (which resulted in the trail being closed all year). Who knows what may occur in the next ten years?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 quite as often as it used to.

Other Names




IWC Rating (International Waterfall Classification)


Total Height (ft)


Tallest Drop


Number of Drops


Average Width


Average High Volume (Cubic ft per second)

75 cfs (5 months)

Average Low Volume (Cubic ft per second)

30 cfs (7 months)


90 degrees

Run (ft)


Watershed or Feeder Stream

Nisqually River Van Trump Creek