Owyhigh Lakes has two trailheads, but to be realistic nearly everyone starts at the White River trailhead, rather than the lonely one on Hwy 123. For one it is a much shorter drive, the parking is considerably better, and the trail gets you to the lakes faster. The Hwy 123 option though is a quiet hike, where you will be lucky to see anyone else out. And you might get a harder workout.
(However…side note: it used to be used as a severe weather alternative for the Wonderland Trail, to avoid going over Panhandle Gap. Less snow the past decade or two has slowed that, along with better gear for being on snow fields.)
We started out early as the hike is nearly all uphill, getting the elevation gain out of the way before the heat hit. Much of the hike switches back and forth, on the edges getting views at points of the creek below, and sometimes across the White River valley of the peaks. Eventually you leave that and get moving in the final push, walking on the side of a forested ridge.
The hike while not offering any views of Mount Rainier, is a beautiful forest walk. The trees are very stellar in this forest. It is open forest, well lit with the sun. It isn’t ever super steep, just always uphill for the most part.
You are almost there when you cross Tamanos Creek on a log bridge. This is the only water source and while usually running, does dry up in hot summers. The backcountry campsite is nearby for the lakes, in the forest.
Not long after the first view of Governor’s Ridge starts.
The trail levels as you enter an open area full of wildflowers.
The lakes sit below the trail, they are not deep, rather more wetland lakes.
Most people find a spot off the trail (though the trail is cutting across the hill, there are rocks here and there to sit on).
While many stop at the lakes as their turn around, keep on the path for a short bit more.
The trail goes thru open subalpine forest for a short bit and opens up into an open meadow.
This is a great spot to sit in the shade of the forest on the edges and just relax. The views may not have a lake here, but it is so pretty. This is the top out height of the trail, from here it heads downhill to the 123 trail entrance.
Across the meadow is a ridge, there is an obvious bootpath across the meadow that climbs it to the saddle. This allows views of Rainier and way down into the Fryingpan Creek drainage (Where the Wonderland Trail comes down, through Summerland). But for most this is a great turn around point for the hike.