I have wanted for the longest time to make it to this lookout. Has been on my bucket list for the longest of times. And the amounts of time that we spend at Rainier I’m honestly surprised it took as long as it did. The hike really isn’t even that long or hard. While the entire way going to the lookout is up. It’s a long narrow climb. So maybe it was that, that got in my mind.
Aside from the long and narrow climb we thought we would spice things up a bit and give it a go in the dark. Fremont is a great place to hike to in order to catch the sunrise. Which was ultimately the bucket list hike I had in mind. Had always wanted to go up there and hike in the dark and be on top of the peak for the sunrise coming up out of the east. Well, we did it and here was our experience.
Let me set the scene for you. Since we are living through a pandemic and having observed the amount of people participating in outdoor adventures lately has been monumental. We knew we had to get to the parking lot at Sunrise early in order to beat the crowds and have enough time to get to the top. Its listed that an average in shape and fit hiker can do the trek in about 45 minutes. I thought to myself upon reading that “Did they run it?” Ok so we ended up heading up to Chinook Pass the day before we planned on our sunrise hike. We ended up parking at the rest area at Tipsoo Lake. There were no signs saying not to camp or overnight there in a car. And that’s what we were doing.
Got up there early so we hiked Tipsoo then went across to Little Tipsoo and hiked around there. Watched the sunset and enjoyed people watching because lord there were definitely a lot of people up there that night. Finally the sun went down and the amounts of people that were there left by the car full and it started to die down and we started getting the car prepared for our nap. This wouldn’t of been the first time sleeping in the car. We have done it a number of times, but this is the first time we really skimped on our bed. We just used our inflatable mattresses that we use for overnights from our hiking pack. For some reason we just had the hardest of times getting comfortable. Then we’d finally fall asleep and someone who had a loud car or was just being loud in general would go by. Benefits of sleeping at a rest stop.
Literally had our nap. Maybe two or three hours of sleep and the alarm went off to wake us. We got up and hopped in the front of the car and were on our way. Luckily we only had about 15 minutes to drive before we were in the parking lot. So we picked a great spot to nap. Pulled in and was so surprised at how many people were there preparing to hike up. So on the same hike as us, others were heading different directions. The mountain is massive on Sunrise side there really isn’t a bad angle to catch the mountain for sunrise.
Got our headlamps and gear on and prepared up to Sourdough Ridge. The weather was clear, could see a dark shadow that made out the edge of the mountain. Was pretty awesome too, because looking at the mountain you could make out two climb teams with headlamps on making their trek to the top of the mountain. Made it to the top of Sourdough Ridge and kept on going. Made it past Frozen Lake. Finally to the fork to start our climb up to the lookout. Only a mile and a half to go. It was a decent pace I’m happy to say that being a slower hiker nobody past me at this point. I mean I would look back on the trail and it was a steady stream of head lamps. Seriously looked like a busy highway.
I will definitely say that hiking in the dark is hard. I have horrible eyesight. I need glasses but I’m being super stubborn about it. But I think had I had them, my hike may have been a little more pleasant. I did have a hard time with the head lamp and seeing where I was stepping. Although I was able to keep a decent pace without anyone wanting to get by me. Thankfully because the trail is pretty narrow and that cliff side goes ALONG way. Especially in the dark. Just go slow and maintain a steady speed and you’ll get there.
Finally made it to the lookout. Just as the sun was making an appearance starting to turn the sky a faint color orange in the distance and allowing a little more detail to come out on the mountain. The weather was perfect. Wasn’t cold or windy at all. Which was crazy, least I thought so. Ended up shedding layers while sitting there waiting for the show. Our final time to get to the top was about an hour and ten minutes. Which I thought was pretty good for me, with all things considered. We got to the top and had about an hour to wait for the sun to peak up over the mountains, so we sat took in the stars, the view. Could literally see forever. People continued to pour in. By the time the sun finally made it above the mountains I would say maybe 250 people were up there.
The view was breath taking. Couldn’t of asked for a better day. The mountain was amazing turning many different colors, looking the opposite way the sun coming up and over the mountains was breath taking. The colors so vibrant and light cascading over the tips of the peaks highlighting their heights and layers. Was magical. I felt so empowered that I got up and did it. There were plenty of times that I had almost decided against it. Or turned around. But I am so happy I followed through and got out of my head. We continued watching. Had an early morning snack, I mean the view doesn’t get much better than it was. Not cold, no wind, no bugs. Was perfect.
Finally decided to wrap in up and head back as we had planned another hike for the day in another location. The walk back was quick and I really felt like an overreactor. The trail really wasn’t that bad going back. I just had a hard time seeing. And a lot of the rocks on the last half mile are like flagstone type rocks, flat and slippery so they do move. And I think that was my biggest issue were those. But we made it back to the parking lot in made thirty to forty minutes. Had to slow down a few times to let others pass that were headed up to the lookout.
Over all. I highly recommend this hike. I feel like responsible kids could also do this hike. In the dark or during the day. It really isn’t that bad. Cliffy yes. Narrow path and loose rocks. But I feel if the kids were seasoned and paid attention to what they were doing absolutely. Great views, there are mountain goats on this hike. We did see some just as the sun was coming up and on our way back to the car. I believe the hike in full is about 3.5 miles. So pretty short and very doable for any level of ability.