OverviewThe Tatoosh Range is located along the southern boundary of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State. A smaller range of peaks, the Tatoosh runs roughly east-west, beginning with Tatoosh Peak (located just outside the National Park in the Tatoosh Wilderness Area) to the southeast and ending with Eagle Peak to the west. There are at least thirteen prominent named peaks in the range with summit elevations generally between 6000-7000 feet in height with the highest being well-named Unicorn Peak (6971') located roughly center-east in the range.
Unicorn (6971'), The Castle (6640'), Pinnacle (6562'), Plummer (6370'), and Eagle Peak (5958') are probably the most frequently climbed peaks in the range -- with Boundary (6780'), Foss (6524'), Stevens Peak (6510'), Tatoosh Peak (6310'), Wahpenayo (6231'), Lane (6012'), Denman (6006') and Chutla (6000') receiving fewer visitors.
The Tatoosh peaks are a nice mix with something to offer to everyone. The peaks range from the easy hike-to-the-top summits (Plummer) to fun class 3-4 scrambling (Pinnacle, Eagle) to low class 5 rock (The Castle, Unicorn). Many of the peaks can be combined for a larger outing (two popular combinations are Eagle-Chutla and Castle-Pinnacle-Plummer; another might be Unicorn-Boundary-Stevens) or if you're looking for an all-day or multi-day peak-bagging adventure: try out the classic Tatoosh Traverse. True complete-ists will need to also tag Tatoosh Peak outside the National Park.
All of the peaks in the Tatoosh Range command spectacular views of Mt. Rainier across the valley to the north - as well as views south to the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens.
Getting There / RoadsMost approaches into the Tatoosh Range start inside Mt. Rainier National Park:
Road Map of the Mt. Rainier NP Area
From I-5 north to exit 68. Turn right off the exit and follow Hwy 12 approx. 31mi east to Morton. There turn left/north on Hwy 7 and follow it ~16mi to Elbe Turn right/east on Hwy 706 and follow it ~11mi to the southwest (Nisqually) entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.
To reach the southwest entrance, take Hwy 7 from Tahoma ~35mi south to Elbe and head east on Hwy 706 another ~11mi to the Nisqually entrance.
Interior Map of Mt. Rainier National Park
Once inside the park there are at least three maintained trails that provide good access into the Tatoosh Range:
- Eagle Peak Trailhead: From Longmire inside the park, follow road past the Wilderness Information Center and continue through the park employee housing area to a bridge across the Nisqually River. The signed trailhead is another fifty feet past the bridge on the left. (Alternately you can park by the Wilderness Info Center and walk in). The trail climbs ~3.5mi to a saddle between Eagle & Chulta Peak. This is the best approach to the western end of the range.
- Pinnacle Peak Trailhead: Continue past Longmire up towards Paradise, turning off right on the Stevens Canyon Road (signed for Ohanapecosh). Continue onwards for several miles to reach a parking area at the Reflection Lakes. The signed trailhead is just across the road to the south. This is the easiest approach into the center of the Tatoosh range, the trail climbing 1.3mi to the saddle between Pinnacle and Plummer Peaks.
- Snow Lake Trailhead: Continue east past the Reflection Lakes for another 1.5mi to reach a signed pullout on the right. A maintained trail ends ~1.2mi in at Snow Lake - although climbing/hiking cross-country can allow access to the eastern parts of the Tatoosh Range. This is the common approach to Unicorn Peak.
The easiest way to reach Tatoosh Peak - located outside the National Park in the adjoining Tatoosh Wilderness Area - is from Packwood. Heading north on Hwy 12, turn off left on Rt 52 for a short distance before turning right again onto FSR 5270. Follow this gravel road to its end at the trailhead. The trail climbs for ~2mi to the ridge. Follow the trail south to pick up a spur trail to the old lookout site atop Tatoosh Peak (6310'). This trailhead may be an alternate approach to peaks in the eastern end of the range. Despite a height worthy of its brethren, Tatoosh Peak seems to be overlooked due to its location outside the National Park. Butter Peak (5096') is another overlooked smaller peak at the very south end of the range - just north of Packwood, WA.
Red TapeA $15 fee is required to enter Mt. Rainier National Park. There are no additional fees for hiking or climbing in the Tatoosh Range. A Northwest Forest Pass may be required to park at the trailhead for the Tatoosh Wilderness Area (park 0.25mi away to avoid the fee).
Fee Information - Mt. Rainier NP
CampingCamping in Mt. Rainier National Park is regulated by the National Park Service. The closest car campgrounds to the Tatoosh are Sunshine Point (just inside the Nisqually entrance) and Cougar Rock (located between Longmire and Paradise). Car-campgrounds, while large, are very popular and often fill up with tourists on summer weekends. It is possible to make reservations for some campsites in advance.
Backcountry camping is also permitted in the Tatoosh range, requiring a free backcountry permit (available at the Wilderness Information Center in Longmire). There are a number of possible areas to camp throughout the range although the National Park Service restricts both the number and size of groups in the backcountry. See the Wilderness Zone Map for group limits in specific areas.
There are also established trailside camps at Paradise River (Wonderland Trail - north of the Tatoosh) and at Snow Lake.
When to ClimbMany of the Tatoosh peaks are climbed all year round. While access may be an issue in the winter months as the road is generally not plowed past Paradise, a number of the peaks (Unicorn, The Castle, Pinnacle, Plummer, and Lane) are often visited in the winter by climbers, backcountry skiers and snowboarders. Caution should be taken around the cliffs and steep slopes in the winter as there is likely some avalanche danger in the Tatoosh.
Unicorn Peak is probably best done in the early season -- climbing on snow being far preferable to slogging up the steep scree when it melts out later in the summer. Many of the other peaks are probably best in the late-spring/summer/fall. Bring your insect repellent in the early season.
Mt. Rainier Trail Conditions
This site posts the current trail conditions for the Mt. Rainier area. The description of the Snow Lake, Pinnacle Peak, and Eagle Peak trails can give you a good idea of what to expect on the first part of your approach.
Mt. Rainier Paradise webcam. On a good day, Eagle Peak is visible left-center -- this can give a good approximation of conditions in the area.
Mt. Rainier Recreational Forecast
Weather conditions at Paradise will be similar to those encountered across the valley in the Tatoosh.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest - Current Conditions
Good site to check on road and trail conditions reports although it is not updated regularly.