To experience Tolmie Peak one must rise before dawn, in the middle of Summer, as the wildflowers are wakening. Sometime in mid to late July.
The drive is long no matter which direction you come from, as you must drive hwy 165, which is a winding 2 lane road that then turns into a 2-ish lane unpaved road to the end, at Mowich Lake. It used to be you could show up at anytime, but in the past few years you must show up early in summer to get a parking spot within a reasonable walking time.
However, the views of Rainier above the ridges as one drives in are worth rising before sunrise. You might find yourself stopping as the sun rises, to catch a few images.
The hike starts at Mowich Lake, on the Wonderland Trail. Head towards the left from one of the many trails that go down to the lake and start walking around the lake.
The hike along the lake is gentle and finally turns away from it about halfway down. You will hike uphill a short section and then the trail rounds and follows through the woods and some open areas gently.
Some summers the Beargrass is perfect here, and it opens up the forest.
The Wonderland Trail continues on past the junction to Eunice Lake, to Ipsuit Pass. Which yes, you should skip the junction and go take a look, way down to the Carbon River, far below you. I’ve hiked down it, when I did Mother Mountain Loop, and oh the switchbacks! Down, down, down they go……
Back to the junction, the trail drops down and then traverses, and then climbs up switchbacks to Eunice Lake Basin. The lilies in early summer cover the hillside.
The trail climb at the end you barely notice due to the non stop wildflower show that lasts all summer.
As you step into the lake basin look up on the ridge, high above is Tolmie lookout.
The hike around Eunice Lake is worthy of the hike. It is a large subalpine lake and has many coves and beaches to enjoy. It also has sprinkled around many melt ponds that in early summer are mini lakes.
We were so early in the season plenty of snow was in the basin (but the trails were all clear).
The largest of the mini lakes, tucked away. Follow the boot paths gently to find them.
In early summer the meadows around the lake are awash in white flowers.
In a few weeks these lakelets dry up and the late summer flowers bloom. Rainier peeks through an opening.
We hiked up high enough to look down at the snow melt lakes.
We went back to the main trail and headed uphill. The trail to Tolmie goes up the left side of the ridge.
The views get more amazing with every step you take, and Rainier gets larger.
The snow areas below are where the lakelets live.
Beargrass in front of Tahoma.
It’s really hard to walk fast or at all in this section. The mountain is behind you, so coming down it is all you see.
In the far distance is Mt. St. Helens (far right, grey flat peak).
As you reach the top of the ridge.
There is a short hike up the ridge to the lookout.
The lookout is locked, but easy to peek into.
Out on the deck around the lookout. If you have exposure issues, this one will leave you a bit queasy. Just hug the wall of the lookout. Can’t say I would trust those rails…..
The views from the far side of the tower, they go on.
However, like every lookout or summit I have stood on, the bugs are always awful. We didn’t stay long, and headed down the trail a bit. At the edge of the trees the flies were not biting.
Eunice Lake from above.
The hike back down to the lake basin goes quickly. It is hard to leave those first lilies of the year.
A last look at the lake and lookout tower, and then the hike back out. The sun was up for the day, it was getting hot and the masses were hiking in.