The road to Mowich Lake in Mount Rainier National Park may still be closed for the winter, but the summer hiking season is coming on us fast. That means its time to start planning your hiking bucket list so that you’re fully prepared to take on the season. And the trail to the Tolmie Peak Lookout in the northwestern corner of the park is definitely worth spending a summer day on.
To get to the trailhead, you’ll have to first brave the 17 mile Mowich Lake road – although usually accessible for all vehicles, prepare for a bumpy ride. My very low suspension Honda Fit made it to and from the trailhead safely, despite a few close calls with large potholes, with a great new coat of adventure paint, a.k.a. mud and dust. The trail begins winding through the woods on the banks of Mowich Lake, a great stop for a picnic lunch in its own right, and continues for 1.75 miles at a fairly consistent elevation until you reach Ipsut Pass. On another day, plan to turn right here and take the Wonderland Trail clockwise around the mountain. For a day hike, you’ll want to keep left and continue on to Eunice Lake. When you reach the lake, you’ll get your first clear sight of Tolmie Peak and the lookout tower on its western spur.
Take a break at Eunice Lake to dip your feet in or have a snack, because, after this, your hike will begin in earnest, gaining the majority of the hike’s elevation in the short trek up to the lookout. After a few switchbacks, you’ll see that the views from the top are more than worth your effort. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to a front row view of Mount Rainier’s northeast face as well as a 360 degree showing of the highlands around you. I made it to the lookout when the surrounding peaks were shrouded in fog, making for a different, but debatably equally beautiful experience.
The lookout itself was unoccupied and locked, but you can still peer in through the windows and imagine yourself spending a night tucked in this secluded alpine getaway. With clouds covering the wilderness below, I got the impression that a night in the Tolmie Peak Lookout tower would be quite the otherworldly experience. Spend some time enjoying the views from the top before heading back down to complete the 7.5 mile out-and-back.
For more Spring hike recommendations, check out our Where to Hike in 2015 series.