Ingalls is a very popular destination, so get to the trail head early. The Forest Service Roads are passable, but it’s quite a ways in, so give yourself time. Make your way out from the parking lot on the Esmeralda Basin Trail and take your first right onto Ingalls Way Trail and head uphill (this junction had a temporary sign indicating the route on July 30th 2016).
Climbing out of the forest and above the tree line brings you to a second junction that takes you over Longs Pass. I continued onward to avoid the added elevation change and made my way onward enjoying the crazy views of the valley and Esmerelda Peak. Keep an eye on the parking lot and watch it disappear as you climb higher and higher out of the valley. Both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams accompany you to the south on your final push over the pass until Mt. Stuart presents itself to you in its fullest profile and you begin to descend into the basin below.
At the pass, you’ll have traveled about 3.25 miles and gained 2,250 ft. Here’s a good place to orient yourself for the rest of the hike: The valley you just walked out of leads to the parking lot. Rainier is southwest of you. Stuart here is northeast.
Keep an eye on the parking lot and watch it disappear as you climb higher and higher out of the valley. Both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams accompany you to the south on your final push over the pass until Mt. Stuart presents itself to you in its fullest profile
Ingalls Peak is your beacon moving forward. Another mile takes you through a beautiful basin with crazy views of Stuart and the Ingalls Creek valley. Camping here for an evening would be ideal, but camp sites are limited and first come first serve so eave early.
The last half mile is a little convoluted, so keep an eye out for the cairns and continue toward Ingalls Peak. There’s some very steep climbing toward the end, and you’ll wonder if you’re heading in the right direction. Just keep pressing toward Ingalls Peak and you’ll eventually crest the trail and be immediately revived by the views.
Stop for lunch or press on to Stuart Pass before heading back to the parking lot. You’ll wish you had more daylight.
An alternate trip takes you down Ingalls Creek Trail and back up over Longs Pass and adds only 1.4 miles. The trail is well marked and graded for stock, so it would make for excellent trail running as your inclines are never outrageous.