Hiking the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park

Hiking the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park

Tolmie Peak Hike is one of the best hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park. This blog will tell you everything you need to know to hike the Tolmie Peak Lookout trail

Tolmie Peak Lookout is located in the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park near Mowich Lake. The hike features a historical fire lookout tower (one of the only 4 remaining fire lookouts in the park), wildflowers, direct view of Mt. Rainier and a lake through subalpine meadows.

At the fire lookout tower, you will have the panoramic view of surrounding peaks. It is the first hike we did in Mount Rainier NP and also one of our favorites. [no_toc]

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How to hike the Tolmie Peak Trail in Mt. Raininer

Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail General Information

Time: 4-5 hours (3.5 hours if you are really fast)
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
Tolmie Peak Trail Distance: 6.4 miles round trip (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate (good amount of uphills)
Pass Needed: Mt. Rainier National Park entrance pass or an America the Beautiful pass.
Parking Lot: Yes
Roadside Parking: Yes
Bathroom: Yes, at trailhead (campground). No bathroom on top
Best Time to Hike Tolmie Peak: July to October, when the road is open (check road status here)

How to get to Tolmie Peak Trail

The Tolmie Peak Trail is located about 2 hours southeast of Seattle. The trailhead is located in the Carbon River & Mowich Lake part of Mt. Rainier National Park. Google Map can direct you directly to the Tolmie Peak Trailhead.

You can drive down SR165 South (but note that Mowich Lake Rd. is closed during the winter). The last 15 mile or so of the road to the trailhead is unpaved but you can do this drive with a sedan or SUV. There wasn’t too many potholes on the unpaved part thankfully.

Parking at Tolmie Peak Trail

There is a parking lot at Tolmie Peak trailhead that fits about 50 cars. However since Tolmie Peak Lookout is not in the popular Paradise or Sunrise part of Mt. Rainier National Park, parking was not too difficult on a weekday during peak summer season.

Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail parking lot

We arrived around 9:30am on a Friday and there were still a lot of empty parking spots. I would suggest arriving earlier on a weekend in the summer though. You can also park along the road and the trail actually can start on the road (instead of at the campground).

Mowich Lake Tolmie Peak Hike Information

Details of the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail

The easiest way to start the Tolmie Peak trail is to go to the campground and the trail is across from the bathroom (it will say Wonderland Tr.). The sign actually does not say “Tolmie Peak” which got us confused, but you will head towards Eunice Lake which is 2.4 miles away. There is another trail near the bathroom called Spray Park, make sure you do not go on that trail by accident (which we almost did).

Tolmie Peak Trailhead Sign

The trail starts nice and easy near Mowich Lake, which is the largest and deepest lake in Mount Rainier National Park (you can fish and do non-motorized boating on this lake).

Mowich Lake at Tolmie Peak hike in Mount Rainier

The trail wraps around the lake on its left hand side and if you are there early enough you will catch a nice reflection of the mountain and trees. After about 15 minutes, you will start going moderately uphill, but the trail is all in the shade in the forest.

Mowick Lake view from Tolmie Peak Trail

After about another 15-20 minutes, you will see a sign pontint towards Eunice Lake and Tolmie Peak. Follow the sign to go left towards Tolmie Lake.

Hiking sign to eunice lake and tolmie peak
Wonderland Trail Mt. Rainier

The trail starts to get a lot steeper in the woods once you turn but it does level out occasionally. During this part of the hike you will start to see more mosquitoes but it only gets worse! After a while you will actually see the lookout on the mountain (which seems so high up).

Tolmie Peak Lookout seen from the trail

You will now see Eunice Lake on your right after all the uphill and there are a lot of wildflowers when we went in late July. It is a very nice place to take a break and you may actually see people dipping their feet in the water.

However be warned that there are A LOT of mosquitoes. When we were taking photos at the lake there were maybe 50 mosquitoes that landed on us eww.

Eunice Lake at Tolmie Peak

Enjoy your time here before going up the steep exposed switchbacks. This part of the trail is about a mile and the trail is above the tree line so make sure you have sunscreen and a hat. Although the switchbacks are tough, you will start to see Mt. Rainier and Lake Eunice on your right, making the uphill battle more enjoyable.

Tolmie Peak Hike view of Mt. Rainier

The switchbacks last about 0.5 miles before you finally reach the lookout. When we went there there were fewer mosquitoes after we climbed up the tower (there were still a lot even at the base of the lookout).

Tolmie Peak lookout top view of Mt. Raininer
Tolmie Peak Lookout Hike at Mt. Rainier

Note that there is no cellular service up here. I highly recommend that you download the offline map so you know how to get back after the hike.

What to bring to hike the Tolmie Peak Trail

Water: I would suggest at least 1.5 – 2 liters of water as the hike has a lot of uphill and part of the hike is exposed

Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses: The trail is partially exposed and can be very sunny and hot. I personally love this sunscreen.

Hiking Shoes: You don’t NEED hiking shoes but I always suggest hiking shoes for comfort, support and traction

Hiking Poles not needed but would be helpful! There are some steeper uphill parts when I wish I had my poles, but you can do the hike without the poles

Mosquito head net: Never in my life have I seen these, but we saw so many people with this head net on the trail! The mosquitoes are CRAZY on the Tolmie Peak hike in the summer and I got 5 bug bites on my face alone. I would definitely recommend this during the hike. If you want to be more protected, perhaps get the Mosquito suit to provide your body and arms.

Where to Stay in Mt. Rainier National Park

We had driven from Seattle to Tolmie Peak hike directly as this was our first day in Mt. Rainier NP. However if you are staying near the park or visiting for a few days, I would suggest the following places to stay.

Enumclaw: Enumclaw is one of the closest town to the Tolmie Peak Trail (and to Carbon River). There is a super market in town. The best rated hotel in Enumclaw is the GuestHouse Inn. However hotels get sold out months in advance so book your room there fast.

Puyallup/ Summer: Puyallup and Summer are about 12 miles further away from Enumclaw, but there are many more restaurants and hotels in these two towns, such as Hampton Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn Express. It’s about an hour and half drive to Tolmie Peak Trailhead.

Ashford: If you are planning to explore Paradise after Tolmie Peak then Ashford is the place to be. Located about 2 hour drive from Tolmie Peak Trail, Ashford is a very popular place for park visitors to stay. It is close to Paradise and it has a few lodges and restaurants. A few good places to consider include Alexander’s Lodge and Nisqually Lodge

Camping: There is a campground at Tolmie Peak Trailhead. There is no site fee but you must self-register at campground kiosk. For more information see here.

Inside Mount Rainier National Park: there are 2 lodges inside Mt. Rainier National Park, Paradise Inn and National Park Inn. Both offer restaurants on site and there is a cafe for food at Paradise Inn as well. These lodges are more expensive but they are super convenient so they get booked up months in advance. They are not close to Tolmie Peak trail but they are great options if you want to spend a few days in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Crystal Mountain: Another good option for accommodation is Crystal Mountain. Technically located outside of Mt. Rainier National Park, Crystal Mountain is a ski resort that is about 30 minute drive to Sunrise. We stayed at Crystal Chalet which had its own kitchen so we were able to cook.

Other Mount Rainier Resources & Guides

To help you plan the perfect Mount Rainier trip, I have a number of helpful blogs on the various hikes in Mount Rainier. Be sure to use them to plan your Mount Rainier holiday now!

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How to hike the Tolmie Peak Trail in Mt. Raininer
How to hike the Tolmie Peak Trail in Mt. Raininer