There’s nothing like a romp above treeline for majestic alpine ambiance. And around here, Mt Rainier pretty much sets the standard for majestic.  From the mountain’s highest road at Sunrise, elevation 6,000 feet, the hike to Fremont Lookout takes you to 7,200 feet, and in-your-face views of The Mountain and surroundings. Even better, the trail was snow free by the end of July this year.  It’s a dramatic hike, but don’t expect solitude!

© Beth Geiger

Start with the throngs of tourists slowly puffing up the wide path from the restroom building.  Don’t worry. At least half will turnaround after the first viewpoint, in less than ½ mile. This is a great place to stop for a moment and look back to Sunrise, with Mt. Rainier looming above it like a stage backdrop seen from the front row.  Then look up to miles of mountains beyond. Sunrise, of course, is on the east side of the mountain, which gives you a nice view into the rest of the Cascades.

From there, the trail traverses another 1.2 mile of sparsely treed, wildflower –laden slopes before reaching a beat-out trail intersection overlooking tiny (and fenced off) Frozen Lake. You have plenty of choices here: up, down, or all around (on the Wonderland Trail). For Mt. Fremont Lookout, follow the well-marked trail to the right. You’ll see it traversing across the long slope, but you won’t see the actual lookout quite yet.

© Beth Geiger

The 1.3 mile ascent from here is gradual, with plenty of chances to nod hello to the more ambitious tourists heading back.  The historic lookout is a few steps above the rocky nose of the ridge. You’ll want to check it out, but the views are about as good from ground level. Look at Mt. Rainier. Look at the dramatic, treeless rolls of the three Burroughs. Look at the golf-course flat, inviting green expanse of Grand Park.  Daydream about an overnight deeper into the Park.

On the return, you can add a couple miles by looping through lush meadows and pretty, mostly forested Shadow Lake. Follow signs from the intersection at Frozen Lake.

 

© Beth Geiger

Season: Summer

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 5.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1200 feet

Variety: Out and back (with options for adding short loops

Highest Point: 7200 feet

Map: Green Trails Mt. Rainier East, No 270

Open to: Hikers

Facilities at Trailhead: You name it. (restrooms, snack bar, visitor’s center, gift shop)

Pass and permits: Entrance to Mt. Rainier requires annual pass ($40) or one-week pass ($15).

Directions: Highway 410 from Enumclaw and Greenwater, turn off at White River Road and drive to Sunrise.

©Beth Geiger
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