Trail Report: Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout
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Two Lakes, a Fire Lookout and a Volcano
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout is one of four fire lookouts built in Mount Rainier National Park between 1932 and 1934. Although the two-story structure is no longer used as a fire lookout, it's occasionally used by park staff as a visitor contact point. From its lofty perch, Tolmie offers up-close views of Mt. Rainier and Eunice and Mowich Lakes, as well as distant views of Mt. Saint Helen's, Mt. Baker, and much more. The hike is roughly 6.5 miles round trip with about 1,000 feet in elevation gain. This was our second hike to Tolmie Lookout. On our first first trip, about 3 years ago, overcast skies prevented us from clear views of Mt. Rainier. We were graced with perfect temperatures and only intermittent clouds this time around. We started our hike late in the afternoon, when the abundant crowds began to thin.
Patches of snow still covered the trail, leaving bridges and stairs partially revealed. Even the clear parts of the trail remained wet from snowmelt as the mountain slowly shed the last remnants of winter. As we trekked along the shore of Mowich Lake, kayakers drifted silently on the emerald-hued lake waters.
Avalanche lilies and various wildflowers decorated the way.
The trail led us through forest and over roots and rocks until we reached Eunice Lake.
Another pristine alpine lake, the crystal clear waters of Eunice Lake mirrored the adjacent rocky cliffs.
The ridgeline that's home to Tolmie Peak Lookout stood well defined against the backdrop of blue sky. With only a mile remaining and a view of the lookout, we pushed onward. As we ascended the trail, the views below were striking. Flowers, songbirds, lake views and mountain breezes invigorated, but the opportunity to get a clear view of Mt. Rainier was the most exciting of expectations. We passed through one last stretch of trees, and the lookout was before us.
About eight other hikers were at the top. We quickly climbed the stairs to the tower and unloaded our packs. The slumbering giant, Mt. Rainier, was visible.
In the foreground, forests, lakes, patches of snow and smaller peaks created a visual buffet. As we got our fill, we sated our physical hunger with a quick lunch. We sat and enjoyed the beauty around us as the shadows elongated with the soon-to-be setting sun.
Packs back on, we began the return journey. We happened to pick a perfect day for our hike. We had comfortable temperatures, mostly clear skies, lovely breezes and spectacular views.
Don't miss the Tolmie Lookout for a glimpse into the past and panoramic views of the present!