The Mount Fremont Fire Lookout: Mount Rainier
Distance: 8.6km / 5.4 miles Elevation Gain: 274 metres / 900ft Time: 3 hrs Dog Friendly: No Toilets: Yes, in the parking lot at the trailhead and at the fire lookout
The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail in Mount Rainier National Park is one of the best fire lookout hikes in Washington and in our opinion, the best hike in Mt Rainier! The reason that it is the best, is that you can sometimes be lucky enough to experience the most insane cloud inversions you have ever seen! This is because the lookout is at such a high elevation. Not only do you get an epic view of the Fire Lookout at the end of the hike, but throughout the hike you also get some of the best views of Mt Rainier itself!
Hiking the Mt Fremont Lookout Trail at sunrise or sunset is something you should definitely add to your Mount Rainier Bucketlist.
The hike is located in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier NP and is 8.6km / 5.4 miles return with an elevation gain of 274m / 900ft. The hike should take you around 3 hours in total.
If you are looking for awesome hikes in Mount Rainier, the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail should be on top of your list. This guide tells you everything you need to know about the trail.
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Where to Park and Finding the Trailhead
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
For the Mount Fremont Trail, you will need to park in the Sunrise visitor centre parking lot. The trailhead is located between the Sunrise visitor centre and the Sunrise Day Lodge, right next to the toilet block.
The carpark is pretty large and we didn’t have any issues finding a spot to park.
How Hard is the Hike
The Mount Fremont Trail is easy – moderate in difficulty and is one of those hikes where the reward of the epic viewpoint greatly outweighs the difficulty of the hike.
This is a family friendly hike and a good one to do with kids.
Some people may find the last section of the trail to be mentally challenging as it takes you along the edge of mountain with steep drop offs on one side, but if you are looking for an easy hike in Mount Rainier NP with amazing views, this is the hike for you!
Is the Trail Dog Friendly?
Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in Mount Rainier National Park’s wilderness areas or on the trails. The reason for this is there is too much wildlife and fragile vegetation or sensitive archaeological sites in the park to keep protected. Service animals are the exception to this rule, however must be kept on a leash at all times.
Dogs are allowed in certain areas with restrictions. Leashed dogs are allowed in campgrounds, parking lots, and on paved roads. You can read more about pets in Mount Rainier here.
When is the Best Time to Hike the Mount Fremont Trail
The best time of the year to hike the Mount Fremont Trail is Summer or early Fall, while there is no snow on the ground. The best time of the day to do the hike is at sunrise or sunset.
Hiking to Mount Fremont Lookout at Sunrise or Sunset
Fremont lookout is an amazing sunset or sunrise hike! We actually did both back to back because during sunset, the lookout was covered in cloud. If the clouds had parted, we can imagine that the sunset from Mount Fremont would have been incredible. Fortunately, we decided to try again the very next day for sunrise and arrived at the lookout just in time for the most magical sunrise we had ever seen!
Not only was there beautiful golden light, but we were also lucky enough to get a cloud inversion!
Tips for Hiking to the Lookout at Sunrise or Sunset
- Bring headlamps! This is so so important! There would be nothing worse than walking along the side of the cliff in the dark without a headlamp.
- Tell someone where you are going and what time you plan on returning. You should do this for every hike out of habit, but especially if you are planning on hiking in the dark.
- Bring plenty of food and water.
- Bring extra layers as it can get extremely cold at the lookout! The lookout is on the end of a cliff and is quite exposed. If you are waiting around in the dark for the sun to rise, you will get very cold. For a guidance on what to wear hiking, check out our gear guide!
How High is Mount Fremont Fire Lookout?
The Mount Fremont Fire Lookout sits at 7,000 feet (2,100 m), the highest in the park. For this reason, the views are absolutely insane, but it can get pretty cold up at the lookout so make sure you check the weather before setting off and layer your clothing accordingly.
Cloud Inversions at Mount Fremont Lookout
Okay first things first. What is a cloud inversion? The most simplest description of a cloud inversion is when you are above the clouds looking down on them.
Cloud inversions are usually quite a rare event, however due to Mount Fremont’s extremely high elevation, they occur here more often.
Although, you can’t 100% predict when or where there is going to be a cloud inversion, there are a few factors that help to create a cloud inversion and which you can check on before you go.
Conditions that help cloud inversions
1. Calm Conditions with a slight breeze
2. Late Summer or early Fall or Winter
3. Humidity of 80% or higher
4. Low clouds – You can check this on the Windy website
Lastly, you need to remember that Mount Rainier is an extremely wild and mountainous area and has extremely unpredictable weather.
Can you Stay in the Lookout?
Mount Fremont is a fire lookout that you are not allowed to stay in and the doors to the lookout are actually locked. You also cannot camp near the Fremont Lookout.
Campsites and Hotels Near the Trail
You cannot camp in or at the lookout, however, there are both frontcountry and backcountry campsites and other accommodation options nearby.
White River Campground is a short drive halfway down the mountain from the Sunrise Visitor Centre Parking lot. It has flush toilets and water but no showers.
There are a few backcountry camping options not to far away from Mount Fremont.
These are Sunrise Camp, Forest Lake, or Berkley Park. For more information about backcountry camping in Mt Rainier and to reserve a permit, check out the National Parks Service website.
There are a few hotel options outside of the park but not too far away.
- Alta Crystal Resort at Mt Rainier – This cosy, cabin style resort is a half hour drive from the Sunrise Visitor Centre Parking Lot.
- Crystal Mountain Hotel – This hotel is located about 45 mins from the Sunrise Parking Lot and the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail.
- Cozy Studio Apartment – located a little further away (50 min drive) but is a full1 bedroom apartment with a living room, a fully equipped kitchen and a hot tub.
Other Must-Do Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
If you are spending some time in Mount Rainier, you should definitely do more than one hike! There are lots of awesome hikes not too far from the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail. Some other must-do hikes in Mount Rainier NP are listed below.
Naches Peak Loop Trail
Distance: 5.3km / 3.2 miles | Elevation: 194m / 636ft | Time: 1.5 – 2hrs | Level: Easy
The Naches Peak Loop Trail is another great hike located around a 30 – 40 minute drive from the Mount Fremont Trail. It is located at the beautiful Chinook Pass. This was a Mt Rainier hike that was on our list for while we were there but we ended up doing the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail a second time instead to make the most of the better weather.
The Naches Peak Look trail has the most incredible views of Tipsoo Lake surrounded by wildflowers and is a great sunrise hike!
The parking lot is quite small so even if you don’t want to do a sunrise hike, we recommend getting to the trailhead early.
Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge Trail
Distance: 5.5km / 3.4 miles | Elevation: 198m / 649ft | Time: 1.5 – 2hrs | Level: Easy
This trail gives you EPIC views of Mount Rainier from Sourdough Ridge and is fairly short and easy so why not add this onto your hiking itinerary?! This is a great beginners hike for the whole family and the trail is also really well signed.
The Sourdough Ridge trail starts from the Sunrise Visitor Centre’s Parking lot, like the Mount Fremont trail so you could even do it on the same day.
This was our favourite hike in Mount Rainier as you can probably tell by the fact that we did it twice. We loved how easy the hike was and the view from the lookout was incredible, especially at sunrise with the cloud inversion! It was surprisingly busy at both sunset and sunrise so don’t expect to have the lookout to yourself.
If you love hiking to fire lookouts, another one of the best fire lookout hikes in Washington is Park Butte Lookout in Mount Baker National Forest which you can read about in our guide. You can even camp and stay in Park Butte Fire Lookout.
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