Looking for a way to see Mt. Rainier? I highly recommend the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail in the northeast corner of the park! Read below so you know what to expect on your hike.
One of the things I was most excited about when visiting my friend, Caitlin, in Seattle was to actually get out of the city and head to some of Washington’s famous mountains! Since I was visiting right at the end of summer, it was the perfect time as many hiking trails are closed off once October hits and stay that way until next June, sometimes July.
On my second full day, we made the drive over to the stunning Mt. Rainier National Park. Caitlin opted for the Mount Fremont Lookout trail as it was challenging but not too difficult for two people who kinda hike but not really. Plus the views – you really can’t beat those views!
If you’re thinking of doing the same trail, here are some tips below as well a mini-hiking guide so you know what to expect!
Quick Mt. Rainier National Park Hiking Tips
- Getting There: Unless you do some sort of day tour from Seattle, you’ll want to rent a car to get out to any of the trailheads. Expect it to take around 2+ hours from downtown.
- Where to Stay in Mt. Rainier: Keep in mind, this park is huge and it can be longer to reach opposite ends than if you just drive from Seattle. Rainier has plenty of campgrounds and lodges in each developed area. (More on Sunrise below).
- Make Sure to Bring: Plenty of water, snacks, hiking poles, and proper hiking shoes and socks. Water will help with the elevation, which starts at 6,400ft. There are some rocky bits where poles will come in handy, and you’ll definitely want some hiking boots with ankle support. I really liked my first run with my Danner Mountain 600 boots.
- When to Go: Keep in mind this trail and area in particular is really only accessible late June to early October. Many trails are like this; so double check before you go!
- Fees & Passes: Mt. Rainier is $30 to enter with a single vehicle or $55 for an annual pass. If you’re a big NPS fan, you can also buy the America the Beautiful Pass.
About Mount Fremont & Mount Rainier National Park
Mt. Rainier has to be one of the most beautiful mountains (actually I should say volcanoes) we’ve got in the United States of America. The snowcapped peak can be seen from Seattle on a clear day and is just truly incredible to see in person.
Surrounding the mountain is, of course, Mt. Rainier National Park. It was actually the fourth U.S. National Park ever established, right behind Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Yosemite! Over all the park covers around 370 square miles (957 km2) and is massive. If you wanted to circle the whole thing, the Wonderland trail is a whopping 93 miles.
Mount Fremont is one of the mountains within the park and also a part of the Sourdough Mountains. At 7,214ft (2,199m), it’s one of its smaller peaks! The name comes from John C. Frémont, an American who explored Oregon Territory in the 1800s and witness Mount Rainier erupt in 1843.
About Washington’s Fire Lookouts
Something unique to Washington are their fire lookouts. They were once all around mountains in the state to, well, keep an eye out for fires. The ones in Washington are particularly pretty as they often look like little wooden houses and in some of them you can actually sleep over on a first come, first serve basis.
The 2-story Mount Fremont Lookout is from the 1930s and is still occasionally used by park rangers. This means it’s closed off to visitors, though you can peak inside. It’s one of four left in Mt. Rainier.
How to Hike the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
I mean, some people do this trail as a sunrise hike! Either way you’ll want to do the brunt of this in the morning and well before the sun gets high in the sky. We arrived around 9:00 AM in late August and the parking lot was pretty empty. However, it was full by the time we were coming back around 1/2:00 PM.
Entering Mt. Rainier Park
The entrance for this trail is in the Northeast corner through the White River Ranger Station. Keep in mind you’ll still have about 20-30 minutes of driving before you reach the visitor center and there’s very likely going to be some roadwork, so pull over to use the bathroom if you have to go.
Parking Lot & Sunrise Visitor Center
The nice thing about this trail is that you can see Mt. Rainier from the parking lot and pretty much all the way through the hike. So if the weather is awful and you can’t see that beautiful peak, you don’t have to waste the energy.
It also already sits 6,400ft above sea level, so if you’re prone to elevation sickness, you’ll know pretty quickly!
Anyway, around the parking lot, you’ll see both the Sunrise Visitor Center as well as the Sunrise Day Lodge. ** Keep in mind the day lodge has snacks, souvenirs, and the water re-fill station while the visitor center has some nice exhibits as well as some park rangers to assist with planning. **
When you start your hike, you’ll want to look for the entrance between both the visitor center and day lodge. You’ll see it pretty easily and there should be a “no dog’ sign to mark it for sure.
First follow signs for Frozen Lake.
First Incline up Mount Fremont (0.2 miles)
You can see this first bit of incline from the trail entrance. It’s pretty gentle with about 200ft of elevation. The trail is dirt and can get quite dusty in drier weather.
Relatively Flat/Slight Decline (1.1 miles)
Once you get up this first bit, the trail starts to wrap around the mountain a bit and feels pretty flat. We realized on the way back that the way there is actually a tiny bit of a decline!
Keep following signs for Frozen Lake and enjoy the really gorgeous valley views over the pine trees. The trail will remain dirt through this whole section.
Break at Frozen Lake
Frozen Lake is a good spot to stop and rest for a bit. Beware of the cheeky chipmunks who are clearly used to hikers feeding them (don’t be that hiker). The lake is pretty and shaped like a heart from some angles, and there are lots of rocks to sit on. This is also where we saw some mountain goats grazing, and if you take one of the other trails you can see them up close! Caitlin went to see them closer; I waited for her haha.
Another steeper incline to join Sourdough Ridge Trail
From here you’ll see a sign that indicates the Fremont Lookout is another 1.3 miles away. You’ll also be able to see the incline you’re about to hike. This is the steepest bit as you’ll go up 400ft over the course of a mile. It’ll also join you with the Sourdough Ridge Trail.
Once you get up the incline, you’ll actually be able to see the firehouse in the distance. This last bit is relatively flat, though the path does change from dirt to rock. The poles came in handy here!
The Fire Lookout!
When you get closer, you’ll see kind of a big rock obstructing the view of the Fire Lookout. While you can climb up and kind of get a view down to the lookout, to actually get there you’ll want to go to the right and find the path that’s a bit hidden. Looks like below:
Once you’re here, this is where you get to relax and enjoy the views! You’re now around 7,100ft above sea level and have the most insane view of Mt. Rainier. I can see why people do this at sunrise. The firehouse isn’t accessible but you can go up on the deck or sit below in the shade. Hopefully you brought a fun snack to celebrate; Caitlin brought us some gushers.
Turn around and head back.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to head back. Since this trail is an out & back trail, you’re very much retracing your steps. I kept my camera in my bag the way there and then took it out to snap photos on the descent.
Check out the visitor center
Once you’re back down the mountain, check out the exhibits at the Visitor Center. They give some cool insight into the nature you’ve just seen on your hike and provide some history to the park as well.
Practical Information for the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
- Length: 5.7miles
- Type of Trail: Out & Back
- Time: Took us around 3 1/2 hours going nice and slow, taking pics, etc
- Elevation Start: ~6,348ft (1,934.87km)
- Elevation Gain: ~900ft (274km)
- Dog-Friendly? No; no pets allowed on trail
- AllTrails Map
Where to Stay Nearby
If you want to be near the Mt. Fremont trail, you’ll want to stay somewhere in the NE corner of Mt. Rainier. The closest area with hotels is Crystal Mountain/Enumclaw, but that’ll still put you around 45+ minutes away. Here are some spots kind of nearby:
|Hotels in Enumclaw||Distance to Sunrise Visitor Center||Costs|
|Alta Crystal Resort $$||22 miles / ~38 minutes||View Here|
|Crystal Moon Cabin $$||30 miles / ~47 minutes||View Here|
Really, unless you’re exploring the park over a few days, you’re better off staying in the city and making the drive over. I personally like the design of the Palihotel in downtown Seattle.
And there you have it! All my best tips for hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail. It’s a really great moderate hike with some truly incredible views of beautiful Mt. Rainier. Let me know if you have any questions below!
For more travel in the Pacific Northwest:
- Where to Eat in the Iconic Pike Place Market
- Portland in a Weekend: What to Do, See, + More
- The Bagby Hot Springs Hike: Relaxation You Have to Work for
- 29 Little Van Life Essentials: A Guide for the Non-Outdoorsy
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