Area: Mowich Lake
Hike Type: Mountain views Pass: National Park Pass
Distance: 7.2 mi RT Duration: 3 hrs Difficulty Level: Moderate
Elevation Start: 4,950 Elevation End: 5,939 Elevation Gain: 1,200
Snow-Free: Mid-July – Oct  

You’ve undoubtedly seen the classic pictures of Mt. Rainier from Eunice Lake, one of the prettiest lakes in Mount Rainier National Park. Now it’s time to hike there and drink in its luminous beauty up close and personal. The meadows around Eunice Lake are especially spectacular with a myriad of wildflowers. Those meadows are particularly fragile, as well, so tread gently and stay on established trails.

You begin your hike at Mowich Lake campground (elevation: 4,900 ft) after enduring an eventful 16-mile drive on a potholed gravel road.

To get to the gravel road, the drive is more routine: From Puyallup, travel 13 miles east on Highway 410 to Buckley, turn right (south) onto Highway 165, and proceed through Carbonado. Just beyond the Carbon River Gorge bridge, veer right onto Mowich Lake Road, the sometimes bone-jarring gravel adventure previously mentioned.

Find the Wonderland Trail on the left side of the road just upon arriving at Mowich Lake. The trail skirts the forested shores of the west end of the lake at a fairly level grade, rising and falling a bit. You’ll catch little glimpses of Mount Rainier across the lake as the mountain teases you with views through the trees.

The trail ascends for a mile to a low pass, switches back, and traverses through forest to Ipsut Pass, about 1.5 miles from the road. Pause a moment to enjoy the view of the Carbon River Valley. Then, take the trail’s left fork toward the lake. Not the right fork, which descends 4 miles to the Carbon River. The left fork drops 100 ft initially, but eventually levels off, and becomes a bit steeper as you approach the lake.

Arriving at Eunice Lake, you are about 2.6 miles from the road and it’s a good spot for a family picnic. While basking in the splendor of the lake, remember that the sub-alpine meadows and shore are easily damaged.

Try to minimize your impact on this delicate environment by staying on constructed trails and resting or picnicking on rocks near the trail. The delicate meadows are not as vast as the flower fields of Spray Park, but they display almost all of the same species. Full of flowers in August, the meadows of Eunice Lake are in autumn color from huckleberry bushes in September. But the growing season isn’t long.

Rising above the lake is Tolmie Peak — its sharp pinnacles of basalt extending along the skyline, and the fire lookout cabin plainly visible. The views are outstanding from the top of the peak and it’s only 600 feet in 1 mile to get there. If you’re with youngsters, you may want to save it for another day.

Take your time descending to the trailhead, recapturing some of the memorable views again on the way down.

– Mary Janosik


Starting Point: 46.933056, -121.863611
Notable Waypoints:

Trailhead: N 46° 55.974′, W 121° 51.765′
Eunice Lake: N 46° 57.235′, W 121° 52.753′

About The Author

Mary Janosik

Mary has lived in the small town of Enumclaw, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, all of her life. Her parents raised six kids on the backside of a mountain. Playing in the woods and exploring the countryside, often on horseback, life was an adventure just outside the backdoor. And Mary was content to enjoy nature's treasures close to home, most of the time. It wasn't until 2001, when Mary's 21 year-old daughter wanted to start hiking, that she thought it would be great to spend quality time with her in the mountains a little farther from home. Mary and her daughter started hiking seriously that year and couldn't seem to get enough. (In 2004 they did 72 hikes in 52 weeks.) It was always an adventure exploring new trails and visiting old ones in all the seasons. In March of 2007 Mary's daughter moved to the beautiful state of Colorado and she drafted her wonderful husband as a hiking partner. Mary started a photography business in January 2005 and has her work hanging in a few businesses in Enumclaw and in surrounding towns. She's primarily a hiker... the photos result from something that she loves to do.