Hike: Climb Up a Fire Lookout

The sparking blue water of Mowich Lake appears like a welcoming oasis after a long drive on a rough dusty road. You will soon come to the conclusion that the drive is worth it as you admire the amazing panorama, breathe the fresh air, and stretch your legs. In the late summer, the lake is ringed by colorful wildflowers, and in the fall, you can find ripe huckleberries.

The trail begins just out of the parking lot along the east side of the lake and winds along the bank through the woods. Soon the trail steepens to ascend some rocky switchbacks. Look up and marvel at the towering rock formations above.

Just before Eunice Lake, you’ll pass the junction with the Wonderland Trail at the top of Ipsut Pass. Walk over and take a peek down the trail to gain an appreciation of just how steep sections of the Wonderland Trail are.

Soon you’ll come to the shore of the lake. On a warm day, you may want to stop what you’re doing and take a dip in its inviting cold water. Or you may want to save that experience for after you’ve climbed up to the lookout. Either way, there’s nothing
quite like a refreshing dip in an alpine lake.

Enjoy a snack, bask in the sunshine, and drink some water and then look up. Yes,

way up there. Don’t let the perspective
dissuade you; it’s easier to get to than it looks, and it’s completely worth the effort. The meadows around the lake are fragile, so remember to stay on the rocks or established trail.

Continue past the lake for the final ascent; you’ll gain over 600 feet of elevation in only one mile. The good news is there are amazing viewpoints all along the trail, providing an excellent excuse to stop and catch your breath as views of Mount Rainier begin to appear over the lake.

A ranger often staffs the lookout, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, on busy weekends, and you can climb up to the outside to view the maps and tools used by fire lookouts. You’ll also want to enjoy the view. For those who enjoy a bit more rugged adventure, some unmaintained trail continues on past the lookout across the rocky ridge.

You can come for the day, or get a campsite at Mowich Lake on a first-come first-served basis, and make a week or weekend of exploring this more-remote area of the park. However long you stay, you’ll come back with memories, great photos, and a big smile on your face.

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