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Mount Fremont Lookout Trail: The Best Hike in Mt Rainier

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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!

“But Kerry, what makes it the best hike in Mount Rainier,” you might ask.

Well, let me tell you!

Not only are the views going to BLOW YOU AWAY, but sometimes you can be lucky enough to experience the most insane cloud inversions you might have ever seen (like we did)!

Girl at Mount Fremont Lookout with a Cloud Inversion

The fire lookout is placed so picture perfectly that it makes for some amazing shots. 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 consider adding to your Mount Rainier Bucketlist.

The trail 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 a hike with the best views 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, including where to park, the best time of the year to do the hike and how to anticipate a cloud inversion.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout

📃 Hike Stats

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

NEW ENTRY RESERVATION REQUIRED TO VISIT MOUNT RAINIER IN 2024
In 2024, Mount Rainier is putting in place a timed entry reservation for the Paradise and Sunrise areas of the park from 7am – 3pm. Each corridor requires a separate vehicle reservation. The goal for this new system is to improve the visitor experience to the park by reducing wait times, congestion, and resource impacts on trails caused by overcrowding.

📍 Where is Mount Fremont Lookout Located

The Mount Fremont Lookout trail is located in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. From Seattle, it will take you around 2.5 hours to reach the parking lot.

The Sunrise Visitors centre, where the start of the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is located is best accessed via the park entry at the White River Entrance.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

Where to park

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.

🚶‍♀️ Pro Tip: Bring your headlamp with you so you can enjoy sunrise or sunset at the lookout.

🥾 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. Most of the incline is at the start, so once you push past this section, it’s a really enjoyable hike!

This is a family friendly hike and a good one to do with kids.

Couple at Mount Fremont Lookout with a Cloud Inversion

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.

If you are looking for an easy hike in Mount Rainier NP with amazing views, this is the hike for you!

🌲 Leave No Trace

Whenever you are enjoying the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make our world beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.

🐶 Is the Trail Dog Friendly?

Girl walking on the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail in Mt Rainier National Park
first glimpses of the lookout from the trail!

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.

🎫 Do I Need a National Parks Pass for Mount Fremont?

As the Mount Fremont Lookout trail is located in Mount Rainier National Park, you will need a National Parks Pass (America the Beautiful).

If you are visiting more than one National Park in an annual period, I recommend purchasing the Annual Pass rather than a day pass as the day passes work out to be more expensive in the long run.

America the Beautiful National Parks Pass

In additional to the National Parks Pass, you will need to obtain a timed entry reservation for the day that you want to go. Each reservation is good for one day only.

📆 When is the Best Time to Hike the Mount Fremont Trail

Girl at Mount Fremont Lookout with a Cloud Inversion

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 but the views are still beautiful during the day if that is more your jam.

Hiking to Mount Fremont Lookout at Sunrise or Sunset

Fremont lookout is an amazing sunset or sunrise hike!

We actually did both sunset and sunrise 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!

🚻 Facilities

At the lookout itself, there are no toilets, nor are there any along the trail. There are toilets located by the trailhead.

There is also the Sunrise Day Lodge at the Visitors Centre which sells food such as hot dogs, soup of the day. chili and ice-cream, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

✈ 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.

Mount Rainier along the Mount Fremont Lookout hike
Views of Mount Rainier along the trail

🌥 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 so bring all of the layers including your wet weather gear.

🛌 Can you Stay in the Lookout?

Mount Fremont Lookout in a Cloud Inversion

You cannot sleep in Mount Fremont Lookout unlike other fire lookouts in Washington like Park Butte Lookout. The doors to the lookout are actually locked. You also cannot camp near the Fremont Lookout.

🛎 Where to Stay Near the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

You cannot camp in or at the lookout, however, there are both frontcountry and backcountry campsites and other accommodation options nearby.

Frontcountry Camping

White River Campground

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.

Backcountry Camping

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.

Non-camping Options

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.

Mount Fremont Lookout Trail Description

Mount Fremont Lookout Trail Map

The trail begins right next to the toilet block at the parking lot. You will start by hiking uphill on a paved path.

The trail turns into gravel and you will arrive at an intersection. Turn left here and continue hiking uphill following the Sourdough Ridge Trail.

Before you know it, views of Mount Rainier will appear on your left-hand-side! Keep hiking and you will notice that you start descending a little until you reach a large intersection.

You will need to turn right to follow the Mount Fremont Trail. From here, you will be able to see the trail head uphill, before disappearing around the side of the mountain.

This is the home stretch! The trail takes you along the side of the mountain. It can getting pretty rocky underfoot here so having a good pair of hiking boots with a solid sole is recommended. Soon, you will see Mount Fremont Lookout in the distance at the very end of the trail!

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to bring a good pair of hiking boots with a thick sole to protect your feet!

Other Must-Do Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park

If you are spending some time in Mount Rainier, you might want to do more than one hike! There are lots of amazing hikes not too far from the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail.

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.

Our Thoughts

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, although in saying that, we know others who have gotten lucky and had the entire viewpoint to themselves.

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 actually stay in!

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