Mount Rainier National Park
Maintained; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
August 25, 2018
National Historic Lookout Register.
US 1562, WA 89
I woke up early in the morning to meet my friend in Tacoma. We wanted to get an early start for a hike, so I was on the road before sunrise. They live in the Seattle area while I’m located in Portland. The drive time to Tolmie Peak was about the same for both of us. We met in the middle to carpool the remainder of the way. The trail is located on the park’s northwestern corner off of Mowich Lake Road. Driving down Mowich Lake Road is 17 miles of dusty gravel one way. It’s a maintained gravel road and I had no issues in my Civic aside from the constant bump of washboard. Although you do not pass a National Park kiosk you will still need a National Park pass to park and recreate in this area. There was a park ranger checking passes when we had parked. The trail begins on the north side of Mowich Lake near Mowich Lake C.G. It starts to climb gradually up through the forest to Eunice Lake where you will get your first glimpse of the lookout. From Eunice Lake you only have a steep mile left to climb. Please note that the subalpine meadows and shores of Eunice Lake are delicate and easily damaged. You should only hike on the already constructed trails in this area to prevent further erosion.
After hiking a total of 3.25 miles and gaining 1,010 feet of elevation you will reach the summit. Tolmie Peak L.O. offers commanding views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding area. It’s a great place to stop and enjoy lunch before hiking back out. There are no backcountry camp spots in this area of the park and camping overnight is prohibited which means it can only be reached via a day hike.
The lookout itself is in great condition and maintained by the National Park Service. It’s the original 2-story frame cab that was built by the CCC in 1933. It’s also one of the four remaining lookouts within the National Park. You have access to the cat walk but the doors to the inside are locked. The shutters were open when I visited, so I was able to get a glimpse into what life inside the lookout once was. The name Tolmie Peak comes from Dr. William Tolmie who allegedly led a botanical expedition into this area. But recent research disputes that Dr. Tolmie actually ascended Hessong Rock instead.