If you’ve read my article on Cascade Pass, you know that my overall analysis of that hike is that it is only worthwhile if you complete the whole route to the pass (or at least almost all of it). The hike to Tolmie Peak, in Mount Rainier National Park, is entirely different. Unlike Cascade Pass, where trees block the view for the first 3 miles of the hike, the scenery along the hike to Tolmie Peak comes into view much earlier, though the views do get increasingly better along the way.
While Mount Rainier National Park is full of options for hikers, I chose this particular hike due to its location. Tolmie Peak Trail is in the northwestern part of the park, making it easily accessible from the Seattle area. As I was already spending a fair amount of time driving around Washington state on this trip, I wanted to avoid any additional driving time. However, it should be noted that while the trail is closer to Seattle than many others, getting there does require quite a few miles on an unpaved road. Be prepared for a slow drive into the park.
The trail begins near Mowich Lake, and the first stretch of the hike leads through woods to another lake. This lake, Eunice Lake, is situated a little over 2 miles from the start of the trail. The lake is a peaceful area to stop and catch your breath for a few minutes if you plan to continue to the lookout. If you don’t intend to continue, the scenery at this point would make the hike worthwhile. However, if you’re up for one more mile of steep uphill hiking, you can get some even more spectacular views.
After leaving the lake, the views improve constantly as Mount Rainier begins to appear over the treetops. Even if you’re unsure that you want to go all the way to the peak, it may be worthwhile to hike a little past the lake to see more of the mountain. At this point, every time you go a few hundred feet farther, the view gets a bit more fantastic.
At the end of the trail, a fire tower offers the chance to get an even better vantage point. From either the tower or the ground surrounding it, the scene leaves visitors in awe.
In addition to the usual considerations of weather and trail conditions, be sure to pay attention to the air quality on the day you plan to hike. Even if it is safe to hike, keep in mind that fog may interfere with the views of the mountain and plan accordingly. While the view is incredible on a clear day, I’m sure it would not have the same impact if visibility was limited.