Your Guide to Mount Rainier’s Lookouts

You’ll find then peering over crystal blue skies, guarding glacial sheets of ice, or snow-clad and peaceful in the middle of winter. They are the fire lookouts on Mount Rainier and one of the most impressive and least visited parts of this beautiful volcano and national park. The first was built in 1916 and now there are 7 that stand tall, helping to spot forest fires that may develop so the US Forest Service and other officials can quickly respond.  Here is your guide to reaching each of these iconic lookouts so you can experience a view that is second-to-none.
mount-fremont-lookoutMount Fremont

Trail Rating: Moderately Easy

This is the highest lookout on the mountain, giving you a unique way to view Emmons Glacier and Willis Wall. Access to the lookout starts in Sunrise, with the trail being just under 3 miles in length. Unlike some of the other mountain trails in the park, the rise in elevation to reach your destination is just 600 feet, so virtually everyone can reach this lookout without much worry.

Shriner Peak 

Trail Rating: Extremely Difficult

It’s about an 8.5-mile roundtrip to reach this unique lookout position. In the southeast corner of the national park, it’s also one of the most difficult to access. There is over 3,400 feet in elevation gain to traverse, so you’re often the only ones on the trail. The loneliness is offset by the consistent interactions that you can have with wildlife thanks to the open meadows along the trail.

Bear sightings have been known to happen, so take necessary precautions while hiking. It’s best to start this trail early in the morning, especially in Summer, and then come down in the evening twilight.

Mount Rainier Tours from Seattle

Mt Rainier Day Trip  Mt Rainier Day Tour  Small-Group Tour with Lunch Private Mt Rainier Day Tour

On this full-day tour of Washington state’s Mt Rainier, you’ll visit the majestic 14,411-foot (4,392-m) volcano and learn about the area from your informative guide. You’ll also explore local treasures like lakes and waterfalls en route from Seattle to Mt Rainier. Nature lovers won’t want to miss this!

Of all the mountains that surround Seattle, Mt Rainier stands the boldest. Appreciate the beauty of Mt Rainier on this full-day tour from Seattle. On clear days, you can see the mountain from downtown, but to grasp its full grandeur and magnificence, you must see it up close!

Admire close-up views of Mt Rainier’s snow capped peak, one of Seattle’s most iconic sights, on this full-day nature tour. See glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife in Mt Rainier National Park with a naturalist guide, and get a vivid sense of the mountain’s beauty while walking or snowshoeing.

On this private tour, take a scenic drive through the old-growth evergreen forests of America’s 5th-oldest national park, affording views of sparkling lakes, flower meadows and massive glaciers. Stop along the way to view wildlife and take photos and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy amidst the scenery.
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tolmie-peakTolmie Peak

Trail Rating: Moderate

On a clear day, this lookout will give you a clear view all the way to Puget Sound. Take the Mowich Lake Road to reach the trailhead, then follow the Wonderland Trail until you reach Ipsut Pass. From there, it’s just under 2 miles to reach the lookout. If you need a break, Eunice Lake is the perfect stopping point.

Gobbler’s Knob

Trail Rating: Moderate

This used to be the easiest lookout to reach. Thanks to Tahoma Creek flooding its access road, however, you’ve now got an 8-mile roundtrip just to reach the trailhead. This will take you to the 2.5-mile hike from Round Pass. The effort is worth the reward because it brings you up close and personal to the platform.

Make sure to take some time to enjoy Lake George during your hike to this lookout, but check trail conditions before starting as log footbridges on the trail tend to wash out in winter and during the Autumn monsoons.


Trail Rating:
Moderately Easy

Although this lookout isn’t technically in the national park, it still has deep connections to Mount Rainier. Located just north of the park, it was originally built in 1934 and has long been a family spot to take in the views of the mountain for locals. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the 7.5-mile trail that starts at Buck Creek, just off of Highway 410. Mountain bikes are allowed on the trail. It’s also near The Dalles Campground if you want to create a weekend adventure.

High Rock

Trail Rating: Difficult

The trail to this lookout is not for the faint of heart. Built a few years before Suntop, the trail takes you right along the cliffs of Sawtooth Ridge. It’s just 1.5 miles of hiking to reach it, but don’t peer over and look down if you’re not a fan of heights. You can reach the trailhead by following Forest Road 8440 off of Forest Road 52.

Kelly Butte

Trail Rating:

It’s another lookout that stands at the end of a short, but quite steep, forest trail. The bonus of choosing this Mount Rainier lookout is that you also get the opportunity to see Mount Fremont. It’s also pretty common to see mountain goats while hiking along. You’ll need a 4×4 most days to reach the trailhead on Forest Road 7030 [it is not regularly maintained], which is accessed from Greenwater River Road.

The old fire lookouts of Mount Rainier are not generally used to fight forest fires any more, but that doesn’t mean their presence is unimportant. They are historic landmarks that offer you some of the best views of this iconic volcano. Choose the trail that works best for you and then prepare to have a great time exploring.