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Tolmie Peak, Mt. Rainier National Park


Mt Rainier, WA

 

One day I was watching a friends Instagram story & I saw her posting photos of a hike she did- Colchuck Lake in Washington. That moment I decided that I would go to Seattle, rent a car & hike that exact hike. I booked my flight & my rental car a few days later, prepared to go there solo. After showing my sister & a couple friends photos of Colchuck Lake, they also decided to meet me in Seattle & hike together. We came in from New York, Chicago, California & Salt Lake City to be together. After one night in Seattle we set out for our first hike. 

Snow Lake in Snoqualmie National Forest was up first. This trail is 6.4 miles out & back with an elevation gain of just under 1,700 feet. The toughest part of this hike is most definitely the terrain. The path is primarily loose rock almost the entire way. I highly suggest trekking poles to alleviate some of the pressure on your feet. The climb up is tough with sharp switch backs. Once you reach the top, you have an incredible view of Snow Lake from above. This hike feels like two in one because once you get to the view, you have to hike down about a mile to get to the lake itself. Even though we were there shortly after some gnarly forest fires, the views at the lake were well worth it. With about an hour break at the lake, the roundtrip hike was roughly 6.5 hours total. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t do this hike again because of how hard it was on my feet. I didn’t have poles, but I went about them that night because of how difficult it was. 

After Snow Lake we drove about an hour and half east to Leavenworth, which is quite literally like teleporting to Germany. Its this adorable town with traditional German architecture, beer & every type of wurst you can imagine! It would be incredible to visit during the holidays. We stayed in the Obertal Inn which was just off the main drag in town & was nothing fancy, but I would stay there again. Save yourself the time, there won’t be any cute airbnbs nearby, you’ll want to stay in the heart of town to really live the German lifestyle. Leavenworth is the closest town to the Colchuck Lake trailhead.

Now, Colchuck Lake is a very popular hike, so you’ll want to get to the trail head as early as possible. NOTE: The drive up to the trailhead is full of massive potholes & is not paved. I rented a Jeep Wrangler for this exact reason. I learned that many of the trailheads are basically an off roading adventure before you even get to your hike. Make sure you upgrade to a vehicle that has all wheel drive. Get the Jeep, it makes for a fun cruise. Colchuck Lake is 9 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,300 feet. The climb is manageable until about the last quarter mile it seems to jet straight up. The reward is the mind-blowing view of the glacier blue waters of Colchuck Lake. The great thing about this hike is that you literally climb to the base of the lake. You don’t have to come down very far to get to the water. Tip- make sure to check the weather at the summit of the hike. We went in September & its as about 45 degrees, it was COLD. I would’ve given my right kidney for a pair of gloves. I would do this hike again & again. With about an hour and half spent at the lake, this hike took 7 hours round trip. Make sure to stay an extra night in Leavenworth, you’ll want to reward yourself with German beers after you make it back down. 

The last day my sister & I decided we couldn’t leave Washington without hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. Tolmie Peak is one of many fire lookouts throughout the park. A fire lookout is exactly that, a tower where a ranger is assigned to keep a watch for forest fires. Tolmie Peak is the most breathtaking view I have ever earned in my entire life. This is a 6.4 mile hike with an elevation gain of just over 1,500 feet. After we climbed 1,000 feet we were sure we made it. Only to look up & see the teeny tiny lookout over a mile away. The last push was pure adrenaline because even though it looks far, you feel so close. To this day, this moment, the view is indescribable. Mt. Rainier is absolutely MASSIVE & you get a straight shot of it that truly is magical. I would hike this trail again & again & again. Major note here: the trailhead was about 40 minutes of off-roading, pothole ridden roads. It was a rough ride, but extremely worth it if you take it slow & have the right vehicle. This hike took us about 4.5 hours, we didn’t spend terribly long at the lookout as we had to get to the airport that same day. 

I could go on for days about how incredible hiking Washington is. There are hundreds of trails within 1-2 hours outside of Seattle. I loved it so much, that I flew back three days later to hike some more. Those trails are for another blog post. For now, the memories of this specific trip, with my Soul Family, will be kept close to my heart as it was the most fulfilling weekend I could’ve imagined. And it all started from watching an Instagram story (thank you @sjerstenhope)!