Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
Built » 1933
Elevation » 5900 Ft
Hike » 7.5 Miles Round Trip
Elevation Gain » 1100 Ft
Tolmie Peak Lookout is located in the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park. Perched high above Eunice Lake, the lookout offers spectacular views of the north face of Mount Rainier, as well as Mount Baker and the central Cascades. The trail starts at Mowich Lake and winds through a mix of thick forest and alpine meadows before climbing steeply to the lookout.
Tolmie Peak is named after William Fraser Tolmie, the first European to explore the Mount Rainier area. Originally from Scotland, Tolmie was hired by the Hudson Bay Company in 1832 and stationed at the newly built Fort Nisqually, a fur trading post in what is today DuPont, WA. It was while traveling to Fort Nisqually that he first saw Mount Rainier. Wishing to get a closer view of the mountain, he organized a botanizing excursion in August of 1833, and with the help of several Native American guides traveled to the foothills of Mount Rainier. During his trip, Tolmie climbed an exposed peak to get a better view of Rainier. Tolmie Peak is named in honor of that climb.
The Tolmie Peak Lookout was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, one of seven lookouts built in the park. The building is a two-story 14′ x 14′ cabin with a balconied lookout and living quarters on the second level, and storage on the ground floor. It was built from standard lookout plans developed in the 1930s by the National Park System under Chief Architect Edwin A. Nickel. The Tolmie Peak Lookout was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
My Hike » 08.27.15
The 17 mile, potholed gravel road to Mowich Lake seemed to go on forever, and by the time I reached the trailhead, every inch of my car, inside and out, was covered in dust. With that said, I made it there in my 1997 Honda Civic without any major problems, so I imagine most vehicles will do fine (although I did watch a piece of some guy’s SUV fly off as he impatiently careened around me on my way back down the mountain. And yes – I did laugh at him.)
A few miles south of Carbonado on SR 165 you’ll cross an old one lane bridge on your way to the aforementioned 17 mile, potholed gravel road. The 494 foot Fairfax Bridge was built in 1921, and at the time of its construction was the tallest bridge in Washington state. Before the bridge was built, the only access to the Carbon River Valley and the mining towns of Fairfax and Montezuma was via the Northern Pacific Railroad or a long hike overland. Both of those towns fell victim to the Great Depression and are no longer there, but the bridge is still standing almost a hundred years later.
If you visit Tolmie Peak in the summer, be sure to bring a swimsuit because you will definitely want to go swimming in Eunice Lake after hiking up the last part of the trail (and in case you’re thinking to yourself, “Swimsuit? Who needs a swimsuit out in the wilderness?” I should also add that there will most likely be a bunch of families with little kids milling about everywhere. It is a national park, after all…)
From Buckley, head south on WA-165 for 1.6 miles. Turn left to stay on WA-165 and continue on for 10 more miles to the Carbon River. After crossing the one-lane bridge, stay right in 0.6 miles to continue onto Mowich Lake Road. The road is paved for approximately one mile, before turning to gravel. Follow the unpaved road to it’s end at Mowitch Lake (about 16 more miles), and park on the side of the road.