My friends and I had been planning to take a trip down to Mount Rainier for months, and this past weekend was much too beautiful to pass up the chance for a day hike to Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. We started off from Kent Station at 7 AM, and the drive to the trailhead took about two hours. I’m glad I read the trip reports on WTA.org before making the drive, because I was able to anticipate the rough road conditions that started about 12 miles prior to the trailhead parking area. The road is very bumpy on the way up, and the dust can severely impact visibility, especially in the sun. I recommend keeping your headlights on the entire time, even if it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference–at the very least, cars around you will be able to see you better. Luckily, the road isn’t potholed, so even relatively low-clearance vehicles can make it to the top (although we did see one car that had punctured a tire and was being helped by the ranger). About 11 miles into the gravel road you will come to a pay station where you must purchase a $25 day-pass, unless you have an America the Beautiful Pass with you. When we finally made it to the trailhead, there were already quite a few cars lining the side of the road (you can only park on the left side, closer to the lake/trail).
Similar to Mailbox Peak Old Trail, Mount Si is famous in the I-90 corridor trail guides for being one of the more challenging options for a beautiful day hike. Make sure you bring your Discover Pass if you want to park at the Mount Si trailhead. We did Si on the first weekend over 90° and boy, did we feel it! The journey to the top consists of seemingly endless switchbacks and a 3100+ foot elevation gain, and although it is not nearly as steep as Mailbox, the trail felt much harder in the hot weather. This trail has heavy foot traffic throughout the year, so it was no surprise that we saw hundreds of hikers along the way, many of them training for Rainier by wearing heavy packs (I was so impressed–I’m definitely not quite there yet!). One of the perks of it being such a popular trail is that the path is well-maintained and is easy to follow.
We started off at a steady pace, but by the time we reached the halfway point about 2 miles in, we were sweating and taking lots of breaks. We had only brought about a liter of water each, and about a half mile from the top considered turning back because we were completely out. Luckily for us, we ran into a friend on her way down from the top, and she saved the hike by giving us another half liter! [Sidenote: The day after I hiked Mount Si, I went out to REI and bought a 2.5 liter water bladder, and have been using it for the majority of my hikes since. If you decide to tackle this trail, I highly recommend you bring more fluids than you think you’ll need, especially if it’s a hot day.]Once we got to the end of the trail, we sat down, had lunch, and watched the birds flit around asking for handouts from tired hikers. The views were top notch, and would have been even more spectacular had we braved the rock-climb up to the top of the infamous Haystack.