A few friends and I decided to try to get up to Iron Peak for a sunset hike. The drive to the trailhead was fairly easy and the service road, though dirt, was one of the nicest I've seen in a while! It was a long stretch, but pretty smooth and easy going. The trail itself dove right into the trees and had a nice balance of steady climbing with some stretches where it flattened out a bit for a break. There were a fair amount of switchbacks on the trail in general. We were alongside or near water for a bit before climbing more out of the trees where we had patches where we were surrounded by scree fields or more barren portions. There was a fair amount of scattered wildflowers though - all very pretty. A small waterfall was visible between the trees in the distance as well.
As we continued to climb, we saw more evidence of snow-melt and eventually some of the patches of leftover snow itself. I agree with more recent reports in that conditions seem to have greatly improved! There were still a few portions where we exercised a bit more caution (especially where they involved steeper ascents/descents), took care not to walk over portions we suspected might be hollow underneath (quite a few of those), and there was one section where the trail had turned into a bit of a little stream for a bit, but the trail conditions overall were pretty good, and I expect they'll continue to improve quickly.
Within the 2nd mile, we started being able to catch some great views of Mt. Rainier and surrounding ranges. We had a hard time not getting to distracted since we knew the views would likely be even better at the top! Sooner than we expected, we broke out up onto the saddle. The views were indeed pretty great. Most of the remaining trek to the top was snow-covered, but looked fairly easily passable. We opted to climb up a nearby rock tower for a snack break to watch the sunset.
Once we were settled in, we ate, talked, had fun with the area, and watched the light change over the surrounding scenery. Views were spectacular, and we had an almost 360 degree view of everything.
We hung out near 'Bill' for a while (Bill's Peak) as the sun slid closer to the horizon. (Bill looks great in evening sunlight. I've heard he's also a fan of long walks on the beach and Mai Tais.)
The fading light was softly spectacular.
As the golds and oranges faded to purple, we climbed down from our perch (stopping every so often to look up at the view again).
Once down, we couldn't resist wandering a bit farther up from the saddle again to see more of where the sun had just recently disappeared.
As twilight settled, we made a fairly quick descent back down to the trailhead, exercising caution over the snowy patches and donning our headlamps as the darkness increased, always keeping an eye out for obstacles or animals. We made it back to the trailhead in fairly good time. Overall such a great experience and hike. Definitely liked that one a lot.