Views from the Top: Fremont Lookout – Mt. Rainier National Park
Words and photos by Grant Hathoway
Mondays are for the mountains…
As my wife and I make the transition back to life in the Pacific Northwest after a handful of years in Nashville, we made the decision to dedicate our Mondays to the mountains. After all, the Cascade Mountain Range was the leading reason for us to move back to Washington State. It only took a few years away from these great mountains to realize exactly how much they really meant to us, so this time around we are committed to spending even more time in and around these majestic peaks. Having grown up and currently residing in the foothills of Mount Rainier, just 45 minutes from the park entrance off of HWY 410, we decided that the Fremont Lookout at the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park would be our destination for this particular Monday.
As most of our trips to the mountains start, we were on the road early. We filled our tumblers with iced coffee and started the drive right at 6 a.m. The stoke was high and the clouds were clearing – as we made our way up and over the clouds at 6,400 feet, we couldn’t help but stop and take some photos. Just over an hour into our trip, we made it to the Sunrise parking lot. We laced up our boots, packed our day-bags full of trail mix and other essentials and set up our trekking poles.
The crowds are smaller on Mondays, and if you get up early enough, the crowds are practically non-existent. This particular Monday was no exception and made for such a great start to the week. We were the first group to hit the trail. At about 34 degrees, we were bundled up and ready for the fall temperatures; the weather is quickly turning in the Pacific Northwest. The fall colors were creeping up on us and the wildflowers were preparing for winter.
It only took us about two miles to warm up and shed some layers as the sun began to rise. As we crested Sourdough ridge, we spotted mountain goats in the distance and had to stop, pull out the binoculars and take a closer look. Eventually, we moved on and continued traversing our way up the ridge.
The landscape started to change as you entered the valley near Frozen Lake. Granite rocks started to appear, flowery meadows turned into dusty grass valleys and the trail turned upwards toward Fremont Mountain. This was our first view of the final destination with Rainier growing larger in the background. It’s easy to focus on the beauty of the trail and immediate surroundings without even looking up and basking in the wonder of the main attraction. It feels like every time I find a glimpse of the mountain it takes my breath away. I love this view of Mount Rainier because you can see the direct climbing route from both Disappointment Cleaver and Sherman routes. By this time, climbers would be making their way down after a (hopefully) successful summit attempt.
As we made our way up, Mount Rainier became larger and more awe-inspiring. My wife and I made it to the lookout after just an hour and a half on the trail. A short and very rewarding hike, the Fremont Lookout is one of our favorite treks to bag in a half-day. First thing on the list upon reaching our destination: coffee. We got out our backpacking stove and Aeropress and enjoyed a hot cup of joe and a handful of trail mix at the lookout.
After about an hour of rest and sightseeing, it was time to head down and make our way back to "real life." Coming down was fast and the ride back to the house seemed even faster. We were refreshed and ready for afternoon meetings in no time. Another successful Monday in the Mountains was in the books!