Hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail at Mount Rainier

In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout trail in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, including trail stats, what to bring, and more!

Despite living in Seattle for 3 years and visiting Mount Rainier National Park a handful of times, Mother Nature always threw us a slight curveball when it came to getting nice views at the park. Our visits were either very cloudy, snowy, foggy, or smokey and we had started to lose hope that we’d ever see the mountain up close in its full beauty.

But our luck finally changed during our most recent visit to the park, with a sunset hike to the Mount Fremont Lookout. With some fears of weather ruining our mission once again, we cautiously hiked the trail to the old fire lookout, getting nervous as fast moving clouds threatened to ruin our views. But Mother Nature finally hooked us up and we were treated to the most perfect sunset and epic, close-up views of Mount Rainier, as well as the surrounding mountain ranges.

There are no words that can truly describe the feeling of sitting on rocks, with Mount Rainier right in your face, and watching the sky and mountain colors change as the sun sets (watch our experience!). This hike left us speechless, giddy, and with major heart eyes.

In our opinion, if you only have a short amount of time at Mount Rainier National Park, the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail should be at the top of your list. It’s not only the best hike we have ever done in the park, but it is now one of our favorite hikes in the United States.

We’re so excited to share more about this trail in this guide, including everything you need to know before you go, where the hike is located, the mileage and elevation gain, what to bring, where to stay nearby, and more!

We can’t wait for you to experience the trail for yourself and see the majesticness of Mount Rainier!

Looking for where to stay, what to eat, and more things to do at Mount Rainier National Park? Check out our Best Things to Do at Mount Rainier National Park!
Looking for more hikes in Washington? Take a look at Our Favorite Hikes in Washington guide!

Reminder: Leave No Trace

Before starting your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave the places you explore even better than you found them.

Before starting your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave the places you explore even better than you found them.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Know the regulations, prepare for different weather conditions, and pack the 10 essentials.
     
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Travel on designated trails and camp at designated sites at least 200 ft away from water sources.
     
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry ALL trash with you and dig a 6-8″ cat hole for human waste, 200 ft away from water.
     
  4. Leave what you find: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
     
  5. Minimize campfire impacts: If fires are allowed, use established fire rings. Keep fires small and put out fires completely.
     
  6. Respect wildlife: Do not approach or feed wildlife, keep pets under control, and store your food properly.
     
  7. Be considerate of others: Yield to hikers going uphill and keep noises down.

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Sitting at 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the 6th tallest mountain in the lower 48 states and not only the highest point in the Cascade Range, but also in Washington. The mountain is home to 25 major glaciers and is considered an active volcano, but thankfully it hasn’t erupted in 1,000 years. 

On March 2, 1899, Mount Rainier became America’s 5th national park and is one of the three National Parks in Washington, along with Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park.

While the park is definitely famous for the gorgeous peak, Mount Rainier National Park has over 260 miles of maintained trails throughout the park through old growth forests, river valleys, and high subalpine meadows. We have always been so surprised by the diverse scenery and hikes, which are almost equally as gorgeous as seeing the mountain itself.

Where is the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail?

Sunrise Mount Rainier Map

Mount Rainier National Park is approximately 369 square miles in size and is made up of 5 developed areas to explore, located around the iconic peak. The Mount Fremont Lookout trail is located in the Sunrise area

This region is in the Northeast corner of the park and is the highest point in the park that can be reached by car at 6,400 ft, and is the second most visited area. You enter this area from the White River entrance and then take the scenic and windy drive to the visitor center, which is where the trail begins.

Due to winter conditions, this area of the park is usually only open from late June to late September or early October.

Why hike the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail?

With a historic fire lookout, 360 degree mountain views, Mount Rainier right in your face, and relatively low mileage to get to the top, the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, and for good reason!

The trail takes you through alpine meadows, past a small lake, and up a rocky trail to the Mount Fremont Lookout Tower, which is one of the four remaining fire lookouts in the park and also the highest lookout at 7,181 feet. 

If you want to experience Mount Rainier up close and personal, see a cool structure, and say “wow!” a ton, the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is the perfect pick when exploring Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Fremont Lookout Trail Stats

Miles: 5.7 miles
Elevation: 1,151 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

The journey to the Mount Fremont Lookout starts on the Sourdough Ridge Trail, before splitting off to the Mount Fremont Trail just past Frozen Lake.

While there is a decent amount of elevation gain on this hike, it’s a pretty steady incline the whole way, so it doesn’t feel too hard. And with views the entire time, you’ll be too distracted by the beauty to focus on the elevation. Although, make sure you’re not too distracted, because it can be a bit rocky and narrow in a few spots and you don’t want to trip!

When to hike the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

Mount Fremont Lookout

The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is typically only open from late June to late September or early October, when the road to Sunrise is open (check the road status before you go!). This is due to the windy, steep nature of the road, as well as the high elevation, which causes it to be unsafe to drive on during the winter.

Even though this hike is only accessible in the summer, you may still see some snow if you visit during the beginning or end of the season. When we visited in early to mid July, there was still a decent amount of snow on some portions of the trail, so make sure to be prepared for slicker terrain!

One other important thing to be prepared for are crowds. Since the window to do this hike is small and it’s a popular trail, it can be busy. However, arriving very early for sunrise, late in the day for sunset, or going during the week will increase your chances of solitude.

We did this hike on a Friday afternoon for sunset and it was perfect! The crowds were minimal both on the way up and at the top. While there were a handful of people enjoying sunset as well, there was space to spread out and it was nice to have some others nearby as we hiked back down in the dark.

Regardless of the day of the week you choose, or what time of the day you hike, our biggest tip for hiking this trail: go on a clear day! If it’s too cloudy, foggy, or rainy, the mountain will likely be covered, which will give you a much different experience than on a sunny day.

What to bring when hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!

Bear spray
This is a highly recommended piece of equipment to have with you when hiking around the PNW. Mount Rainier National Park is home to black bears, which tend to not be aggressive, as well as mountain lions, which you do not want to encounter. We have not seen either in the park, but it’s good to be aware, prepared with bear spray, and review what to do if you see either one.

Offline Map
We’d highly recommend downloading the AllTrails map for the route you’re hiking before you go. There is no cell service in the park and it’s helpful to track your progress on the trail, as well as verify the route if needed. You will need an AllTrails Pro membership to download maps, which is $30 a year and so worth it!

Layers
The PNW is notorious for wild weather so bringing layers will be key. While you’re viewing the mountain from the lookout, the sun may pop out for one moment and you get a little warm and then just as quickly the clouds will roll back in with a cold breeze. During our visit it was very cold and windy at the top!

Food
Mount Fremont Lookout makes for an epic picnic spot! Make sure you bring snacks and food to keep you fueled during the trek, or at the top, but even more importantly, make sure you have bags to put your trash in so you can pack out what you brought.

Sunscreen
The Mount Fremont Trail is very exposed, so if you go on a warm and sunny day, you’ll get lots of sun!

Spikes
If you plan to hike this trail when there is snow on it, we’d recommend bringing microspikes. There were a few areas that were super slick during our hike and had dropoffs, so we put on spikes for a portion of it to feel more comfortable.

Lots of water
We love our Camelbak bladder for hikes because it stores a ton of water and it’s easy to drink while moving.

Headlamp
Having a headlamp is not only one of the 10 hiking essentials, but is especially important if you plan to start your hike before sunrise or finish after sunset.

Things to know before hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

There is a fee to enter the park. It costs $30 per vehicle ($25 for motorcycles) to enter Mount Rainier National Park, which covers 7 days. However, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and will get you into any National Park, monument, or forest for free.

Visit during the week. Weekdays are a lot less busy at the park and can be more enjoyable. The Sunrise area is the second most popular area of the park and has a short window to experience it, so be prepared for lots of people in the summertime.

Be bear (and wildlife) aware. As we mentioned above, black bears and mountain lions call Mount Rainier home. While there have been no bear attacks recorded in the park, they are out there so be aware and prepared! Please review what to do if you see a bear or other wildlife.

Dogs are not allowed! Just like the other National Parks, dogs are not allowed outside of parking areas and campgrounds at Mount Rainier National Park. Traveling with your dog? Learn what we do with Kona if she cannot join us during our travels. 

Our experience hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

Now that we have shared info about the trail, when to hike the trail, what to bring, and more, we’re going to dive into our experience on the trail, to hopefully give you a better idea of what to expect. You can also watch our experience!

Mount Rainier National Park

As soon as we knew we’d be going back to our former home of Washington, hiking to the Mount Fremont Lookout was high up on our todo-list. And even though the Pacific Northwest tends to have perfect weather in the summer, we were nervous that we’d get unlucky once again and not see many views of the mountain.

After looking at the weather forecast our first week back in town, we picked a sunny Friday afternoon to attempt the hike. We arrived at the Sunrise area of the park well before sunset and were instantly greeted with crystal clear views of the mountain, which made us giddy for the potential of an epic sunrise.

Mount Rainier National Park

The Sourdough Trail, which starts to the right of the visitor center, is where our journey began. There are quite a few trails in this area, but they have good signage to help ensure you go the right direction.

The beginning of the trail goes through some trees and despite us visiting in July, there were some decent sections of the trail still covered in snow. These sections were not too hard to pass in hiking shoes, but were definitely more comfortable with spikes, as there were some drop offs that would’ve been dangerous if we had slipped.

We made it through the wooded area and then entered the exposed portion of the trail (which is how the trail is for the rest of the time). This area is a lot rockier and you immediately have unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We still had a bit of snow to cross, so we took this part pretty slow.

About 1.5 miles into the hike, you’ll reach Frozen Lake, which is a small lake that is actually the water source for drinking water for the Sunrise area of the park…pretty cool!

Frozen Lake also marks a junction with the Burroughs Mountain Trail (another amazing trail in the park!), but you’ll want to go to the right to start on the official Mount Fremont Lookout Trail. This portion of the trail is rocky and exposed and has a nice smooth incline to the top that had us breathing a bit heavier. But the views were phenomenal and helped distract us from the elevation gain.

Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

As we ventured up the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail, our worst fear started to happen. Clouds were coming in fast and starting to cover up the mountain. We felt our hearts sink. We had perfect weather when we started the hike, with the clearest views of Mount Rainier we had ever seen, but now the clouds were threatening our chance to have a nice sunset. We remained hopeful though and also thankful that we had even gotten a glimpse of a clear Rainier that day.

After an additional 1.3 miles from Frozen Lake, we finally reached the Mount Fremont Lookout! At the top, there is so much to see. We instantly noticed the lookout tower, which is a pretty unique thing to experience on a hike, as well as the Mount Rainier views that were still hanging on through the clouds.

But there are also spectacular views of the Cascade Range, the Olympic Mountains, and if you look North, you will see the beautiful Grand Park. Adam was mesmerized with this green meadow as the setting sunlight poured into it!

We spent some time checking out the Mount Fremont Lookout, which was built in 1934 and was used to monitor the forest for wildfires. The lookout still has old school style appliances inside that you can see through the windows, but you are not able to go inside unfortunately.

While there were some people hanging on the “patio” of the lookout, there are also a lot of rocks to sit on and spread out from others at the top. We found a nice rocky spot and had a nice picnic with Wild Zora backpacking meals. It had gotten a bit windy and chilly at the top, so having a hot meal while waiting for the sunset was clutch! 

As we ate dinner, Mount Rainier was covered by clouds, but they were moving fast, so we remained optimistic that we would still get a sunset. And boy did we!

Right as the sun was about to set, the clouds suddenly changed and left us with an incredible cloud inversion, which is when cold air gets trapped underneath a layer of hot air and the clouds sink closer to the ground, leaving the sky above crystal clear.

It’s safe to say we freaked out a bit as we saw Mount Rainier peaking above these clouds, with a gorgeous pink and purple alpenglow. We snapped hundreds of photos and sat in awe of the most picture perfect image of Mount Rainier we had ever seen.

After the sun fully set, we enjoyed a gorgeous “blue hour” and had to force ourselves to leave. The sky was now perfectly clear and we could see every ridge of the mountain. We could’ve stayed up there forever!

But unfortunately we had to head back down before it got too late, so we turned on our headlamps and made the 2.85 mile trek back down to the trailhead. There were a handful of other groups going down, which made us feel more comfortable making the trek down in the dark. We safely passed over the snowy parts and booked it back to the van just as the sky became completely dark and the stars were popping out.

Hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail at Mount Rainier

To this day, we are still in awe of the scenery at the Mount Fremont Lookout. It was one of the most magical experiences we have had on a hike and we hope that your experience is just as beautiful as ours was. 

Other hikes near the Mount Fremont Lookout

Looking for more hikes to do before or after hiking to the Mount Fremont Lookout? Here are a handful located within the Sunrise area of the park. For even more ideas and itineraries, check out the best things to do at Mount Rainier National Park

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Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail

Miles: 9.4 miles
Elevation: 2,562 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

Pair this loop hike with the Fremont Lookout Trail and you have yourself one epic day of hiking! Since these two hikes share a trail for a portion of the hike, by combining them it’s only 2.6 extra miles of hiking to add on the Fremont Lookout.

We’d suggest doing this hike, having a snack or lunch break, then heading to the Fremont Lookout Trail for sunset!

You’ll begin Burroughs Mountain in the same area as the Fremont Lookout, but at a different trailhead. You’ll take the left side of the Burroughs Mountain Trail loop to the end of the trail and then head back by going towards Frozen Lake and then splitting off for the Fremont Lookout. You’ll then take the Sourdough Ridge Trail back to the main Sunrise parking area, which is where both hikes begin.

Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop Trail

Miles (round trip): 3.3
Elevation: 636 ft
Trail map & current conditions

This was our first ever hike at Mount Rainier and let’s just say we were greeted with complete whiteout conditions upon our arrival. But since we made the trek to the park, we decided to go for it anyways.

After zero views during the hike, we got back to the car defeated, but to our surprise, the weather cleared up, so we did the hike for a second time! And it was worth it!

We recommend doing the hike clockwise for the best views. And since this is one of the more popular trails in the park, make sure to arrive early. If you go in late summer or early fall, be on the lookout for huckleberries to snack on!

Crystal Lakes Trail to Sourdough Gap

Miles (round trip): 7.4
Elevation: 2,913 ft
Trail map & current conditions

You have several viewpoints and attractions to experience on this hike. There are 2 alpine lakes, a gap in the mountains, and an optional peak where you can see 5 volcanoes on a clear day!

The Crystal Lakes Trail takes you first to a small lake that is only 100 yards off the trail, then to the larger Crystal Lake. Once you reach this lake, continue along its left side to Sourdough Gap for epic views of the lake and Mount Rainier posing between two peaks!

If you’re feeling extra energized for more views, retrace your steps from the gap and lakes to about a mile before the trailhead and take a left onto the Crystal Peak Trail. This will add about 5 miles to your trip bringing you to around 12+ miles for the day! Follow this to reach Crystal Peak which was once the site of an old fire lookout. 

Make sure to start early if you’re planning to hike to the peak to avoid getting beaten by the sun, as the trail is mostly exposed.

Wonderland Trail to Camp Summerland & Panhandle Gap

Miles (round trip): 10.1 miles
Elevation: 2,595 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Beautiful meadows, two lakes, wildlife, wildflowers, glaciers, and mountains all await you on this popular hike, what more could you want?! 

If you go during peak season make sure to get an early start to this one to avoid crowds and heat.

Where to eat after hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

Dining options within the park are very limited, but if you’re willing to drive a little bit out of the park, you’ll have a handful of options to choose from. We recommend packing snacks and meals for convenience and to enjoy an epic picnic at the park, but if you’re still hungry, here are some spots to check out.

Inside Mount Rainier National Park

Sunrise Day Lodge is located right by the trailhead and has a snack bar with items like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, soups, and soft serve.

Crystal Mountain Resort

The Crystal Mountain Resort, which is 45 minutes from the Mount Fremont Lookout trailhead, offers a variety of dining options for before or after your hike, including the Summit House Restaurant which has epic views of Mount Rainier from 6,872 feet up, making it the highest dining experience in Washington. You do have to pay to take a gondola to this restaurant, which ranges in price depending on when you visit and your age.

Where to stay before or after the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

White River Campground Photo Credit: Miriam S. on Hipcamp

Sunrise offers a handful of lodging options, ranging from campgrounds, cabins, and a resort. This is one of the best bets if you want to stay super close to the park. Looking to stay in a different region of the park? We share more options here!

Campgrounds

White River Campground
Located right by the Sunrise visitor center, this is a great spot to call home if you want to hike some of the top trails in the park!

Price: $20
Open: late June to late September 
# of sites: 112 (map)
RV spots: Yes
Toilet: Regular
Reservations?: Unfortunately not, it’s first-come, first-served

Silver Springs Campground
Located 7 miles north of the White River entrance, which is the entrance for the Sunrise area. This campground is great for tents and RVs and close to lots of hikes.

Price: Starts at around $25, with price increases for holidays and larger sites
Open: late May to mid September 
# of sites: 56
RV spots: Yes, but there is no electric
Toilet: Regular
Reservations?: Yes, you can reserve here.

The Dalles Campground
The Dalles campground is 13 miles north of the White River entrance, which takes you to Sunrise. This campground has some waterfront sites too!

Price: Starts at around $22.75, with price increases for holidays and larger sites
Open: late May to mid September 
# of sites: 45
RV spots: Yes, but there is no electric
Toilet: Vault
Reservations?: Yes, you can reserve here.

Ranger Creek Airstrip
We stayed at this FREE campground after doing our sunset hike to the Mount Fremont Lookout. It had a lot of spots and even on a Friday night in July we were able to snag one. Some report that it gets busy and loud, but we didn’t have any issues. There are some pit toilets here and you get to watch small planes land and take off!

Hotels

Alta Crystal Resort at Mount Rainier: This resort right by Mount Rainier offers spacious suites and you can take their gondola to the top to see epic views of the mountain.

Rentals

Alpen Bliss Chalet: This 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house is good for larger groups (a bit pricey).

Hiking the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail?

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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