Tolmie Peak Lookout at Mount Rainier

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It’s a picturesque hike the entire family can enjoy together. Get your pack, grab your boots and don’t forget your bug spray. You’ll need it for this hike. This moderate hike will awe you with alpine lakes, fields of flowers, breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and a sense of accomplishment once you’ve reached the top. This would be the first lookout tower that I have made it to. I didn’t quiet make it on the last lookout hike I went on, so the satisfaction of standing on top of this mountain looking out was a huge deal to me.

The trail to the lookout starts at Mowich Lake, which is in Mount Rainier National Park boundaries. So upon arrival, if you don’t have the American the Beautiful Pass, you will have to pay to gain entrance. Also this access point is only open from June to October most years. Plan accordingly, the road to Mowich Lake is a gravel road that is heavily grated. It is that way for eleven miles. So a very dusty/bumpy ride. There is parking along the road along side Mowich Lake on either side of the road. Come early parking fills up fast. You’ll end up parking further down the road adding that much more to your hike.

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Mowich Lake is a stop for Wonderland Trail hikers. The Wonderland Trail is a ninety-three mile loop trail that goes all the way around Mount Rainier. Mowich is one of the campgrounds that those hikers use along their journey around the mountain. There is a ranger station here, food storage, compost restrooms and a campsite. Complete with the pristine clear blue Mowich Lake. Having never camped here one can only imagine the beauty and peace that comes in the night.

The hike is 7.5 miles round trip, about 4000 feet of elevation gain. It starts out relatively easy as we’re walking the bank of Mowich Lake. The water is so still, not a ripple, not a breeze. Being able to peer into the water from the trail perched above looking deep into it’s blue depths it amazing. The water is so clear, almost like it isn’t even there. The trail is dirt, every step you get a puff of dust engulfing your boots. Like I mentioned before, come early. This is a very popular trail. Can get busy at times. I also mentioned bug spray. The bugs here, are absolutely ridiculous. The mosquitoes in the beginning. Then when the elevation climbs you run into biting deer flies. They’re similar to a horse fly. But much more angry.

You’ll eventually get to a fork in the road. One direction continuing on heading towards the lookout and another heading towards Isput Pass. When you’ve got here, go look. Its amazing. Practically a cliff. Looking out and over that way the wind is whipping by hard and fast, the trail down, unforgiving and steep. It takes you down 5000 feet to Isput Creek Campgrounds at the Carbon River. Today were heading to the lookout, we’ll save that hike for another day.

Continuing on through the forest admiring all the old Alaska yellow cedar trees. The vast and distant fields of flowers and tall rock formations its hard not to stop to take it all in. Almost halfway into this hike the terrain gets a little more demanding. Needing to shuffle over roots, rocks, and navigate through the switchbacks. As the trees begin to thin, more wildflowers become present. We crest on a ridge that happens to be yet another alpine lake. This one is called Eunice Lake. There is usually snow here throughout the year. Makes for a nice way to cool down from the walk getting here. I always dunk my hat or bandanna in the ice. Its such a cool and refreshing feeling. Helps when you look up and see the lookout sitting ever so nice way above the lake on the edge of the bowl.

It’s the last mile of the hike. Its practically straight up. My legs are tired, my feet hurt, I always get blisters when hiking no matter the measures I take. I’m chewed up from the bugs, because even with spray they still love me. I’m a little grouchy and worn out. I know this last jaunt will be tough, but I’m not quitting now. Lots of people coming down. Giving encouraging words of “Your almost there!” My exhaustion must of been apparent on my face. Or maybe they heard me yelling about the bugs. Either way, was nice to hear we were almost there. I was so ready to take a load off and get my boots off and doctor my feet.

Again the trees start thinning. In the distance you can see Mount Saint Helen’s. Was a bit of a smokey day. We had been in the peak of fire season but was able to catch somewhat of a break in the smokey skies a bit close by. In the distance Helen’s was pretty choked out in smoke. Then the most pleasant sight. The lookout. It was wooden brown, stood tall on stilts to lookout over the mountain peaks afar for fires. This was the first time I had made it to a lookout. I was proud of my accomplishment. I really relished in moment and the view of the mountain. The bugs also subsided so that was a plus. Took a seat up on the lookout deck, took my boots off, decided to refuel on lunch, doctored my wounds and started thinking about our hike back down. What goes down, must come back up. The hike back was going to be just as hard as hiking in.

Took about two and half / three hours to get to the top. The trip back to the car was about forty-five minutes faster than the climb up. Was so nice to get to the car and sit down and relax my feet. Was definitely an exhausting hike, well worth it though. I would do it again. I’m actually thinking about another possible trip to the lookout again.

3 thoughts on “Tolmie Peak Lookout at Mount Rainier”

  1. I agree, good post! There is so much to see and document out around Rainier that it can be hard to find good, descriptive information about a particular area. I’ve studied the imagery around Tolmie before but haven’t gotten up there in person yet though I have been to Mowich and Summit Lake. That’s one for this summer, I suppose!

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