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Owyhigh Lakes

Mount Rainier Area > NE - Sunrise/White River
46.8905, -121.5968 Map & Directions
Length
7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
1650 feet
Highest Point
5275 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Moderate/Hard
Photo by trip reporter LittleAngelsMollie. Full-size image
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Established campsites
  • Old growth
  • Good for kids
  • Lakes

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass

Walk a very pleasant and well-graded trail through old- and new-growth forest. After a moderate elevation gain, the forest opens into meadowlands filled with wildflowers after the snow melts. A pair of shallow but pretty lakes, with a rocky ridge as a backdrop, completes the scene. Continue reading

Rating
3.65 out of 5

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Hiking Owyhigh Lakes

Owyhigh Lakes can be accessed from the north via White River Road (Sunrise Road), or the southeast via State Route 123. This describes the former trail, which is shorter, better maintained, and has less elevation gain, but requires a National Park Pass.

Owyhigh. Park rangers pronounce it "O-Y-high". Other pronunciations range from "Oh-wee-high" to "OW-E-high" with many variances.  But what does it mean? The park service provides this story: “According to legend, the Owyhigh Lakes were named after Yakama Chief Owhi, who loaned horses to Theodore Winthrop (after whom the Winthrop Glacier was named), when Winthrop was on a trek across the Cascades in the mid-1850’s.”

Start out at the signed trailhead across the road from the small parking area. The trail is wide, well-graded, and pleasant to walk - a good trail for children. The thick forest means limited views, but also shade-tolerant species of trees, such as yellow cedar. Blueberries and huckleberries are plentiful.

At 0.6 mile, a bluff overlooks the Shaw Creek drainage, far broader than it needs to be, providing evidence of past flooding. Climb gently to a bridge over Tamanos Creek at 2.9 miles, 1500 feet higher than the trailhead. Just past it is Tamanos Creek Camp (permit required). There are four individual campsites, a group campsite, a bear pole, and a privy. If you are camped here in late summer and the creek is dry, you may have to use Owyhigh Lakes (quite a bit further on) as your water source.

Continue on level ground another half mile, to where the forest suddenly opens up into meadowlands. After the snow has melted, a carpet of wildflowers grabs your attention, including lupine, bistort, anemone, aster, paintbrush, columbine, groundsel, and lovage. If you can manage to look up from the blooms, you'll soon spy Buell Peak and Barrier Peak. At 3.5 miles, the trail passes 100 feet above the Owyhigh Lakes. Governors Ridge provides a jagged backdrop for the shallow but scenic lakes. This is your turnaround point.

Resist the temptation to drop straight toward the lakes, across the flowered meadow. If you want to wander the lakes basin, there is a social trail that approaches the lakes from the southwest, a quarter mile ahead. The lakes are too shallow for swimming but stay remarkably clean for their depth.

Extending your trip: The trail south of Owyhigh Lakes is narrower and less well maintained, but still easily followed. If you can arrange a car shuttle, you can complete a one-way hike to the opposite end of the Owyhigh Lakes Trail along State Route 123 (the shortest option). It’s another 4.7 miles from Owyhigh Lakes to Deer Creek, then 0.4 mile to the road (passing Deer Creek Falls), for a total of 8.6 miles one-way.

Navigation warning: Both of the listed Green Trails maps have incorrect mileages for the section north of Owyhigh Lakes.

WTA worked here in 2016!

Hike Description Written by
Ken Giesbers, WTA Correspondent

Owyhigh Lakes

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 46.8905, -121.5968 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

Make your way to Mount Rainier National Park’s White River entrance from State Route 410. It is on the northeast side of the mountain, 36 miles south from Enumclaw or 3.5 miles north from Cayuse Pass (the intersection of State Routes 123 and 410). In just over a mile is the entrance gate and pay booth. Continue past the gate 2.2 miles to the signed Owyhigh Lakes trailhead. Parking is limited, with room for about 7 vehicles.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

Mount Rainier Area > NE - Sunrise/White River

Mount Rainier National Park

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking Mount Rainier (Dan A. Nelson and Alan L. Bauer; Mountaineer Books)

Hiking Mount Rainier National Park (Heidi Schneider and Mary Skjelset; Falcon Guides)

Green Trails No. 270 - Mount Rainier East

Green Trails No. 269S - Mount Rainier Wonderland

Download a map to plan your hike

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Owyhigh Lakes

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