Owyhigh Lakes, Owyhigh Lakes Trailhead, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Owyhigh Lakes - 7.0 miles

Owyhigh Lakes Trailhead

The Owyhigh Lakes are framed to the east by Barriers Peak and Governors Ridge

The Owyhigh Lakes are framed to the east by Barriers Peak and Governors Ridge

Round-Trip Length: 7.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,793' - 5,185' (5,272' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,392' net elevation gain (+1,573' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Owyhigh Lakes - 7.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Owyhigh Lakes (5,185') are located 3.5 miles from White River Road in Mount Rainier National Park. The lakes are set in a broad, grassy meadow framed by Barriers Peak and Governors Ridge (east), and Tamanos Mountain (west). The Owyhigh Lakes Trail rises steadily through diverse mid-elevation and subalpine forests to a wide opening in the valley at the head of Shaw Creek. It continues 5.3 miles past the lakes to the Eastside Trailhead on HWY 123.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The trail's consistent, moderate grades are ideal for families and runners, and lighter use make it a good choice during busy periods. These damp, sunny meadows hold prolific flowers and see active wildlife (mosquitoes can be a severe nuisance). 

According to legend, the Owyhigh Lkaes were named after Chief 'Owhi', who loaned horses to Theodore Winthrop on his trek across the Cascades in the mid 1850s (courtesy NPS):

The trail rises steadily in a diverse forest with some notably large fir and hemlock. It winds uneventfully up the north side of Tamanos Mountain with infrequent, limited views of the White River (1.0 miles : 4,315'). Grades ease through a transitional subalpine forest to a bridge over Tamanos Creek (2.85 miles) and the Tamanos Creek Campsite (2.95 miles : 5,245').

Here the trail levels and straightens on a south heading into a wide opening in the valley (3.35 miles : 5,240'). It runs across big open slopes at the base of Tamanos with great views of the lakes, but does not actually reach them (3.5 miles : 5,256'); you'll have to improvise down through meadows and bogs to the Owyhigh Lakes (3.55 miles : 5,185').

Tamanos Mountain (6,790') stands directly over the trail, and Barrier Peak (6,521') and Governors Ridge loom east across the wide, level valley floor.

The trail continues past the lakes into patchy forest and another link of meadows under the Cowlitz Chimneys (3.85 miles : 5,357'). It's worth exploring these scenic subalpine parklands.

Established routes lead up Tamanos Mountain, and to an interesting basin just below the summit. The trail continues over a subtle pass and back into forest at the head of Kotsuck Creek, which it follows down to the Eastside Trailhead on HWY 123.

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N46 53.443 W121 35.799 — 0.0 miles : Owyhigh Lakes Trailhead
  • N46 53.400 W121 35.216 — .5 miles : Steady climb in old growth forest
  • N46 53.169 W121 35.270 — 1.5 miles : Winding, mod-steep climb up mountainside
  • N46 53.095 W121 35.360 — 2.0 miles : Steady winding climb up NE side of Tamanos
  • N46 52.842 W121 35.292 — 2.5 miles : Steady climb in transitional forest
  • N46 52.561 W121 35.226 — 2.85 miles : Cross bridge over Shaw Creek
  • N46 52.526 W121 35.166 — 2.95 miles : Tamanos Creek Camp
  • N46 52.182 W121 35.201 — 3.35 miles : Valley and forest open to big meadows
  • N46 51.999 W121 35.172 — 3.5 miles : Trail runs over lake
  • N46 51.999 W121 35.172 — 3.55 miles : Owyhigh Lakes (5,185')
  • N46 51.746 W121 35.348 — 3.85 miles : Pass through patchy forest to next meadow

Worth Noting

  • Mosquitoes can be a nuisance on this trail, particularly in damp meadows around the lakes. Long sleeves and bug repellant are recommended.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping is permitted at the Owyhigh Lakes (Tamanos Creek Camp).

Wilderness Permits are required year-round for overnight camping in the backcountry. Wilderness Camping Permits are free (*see notes for climbers below).

  • Permits and current trail conditions are available at all wilderness information centers, visitor centers and ranger stations (360.569.2211).
  • Camp only in sites designated on your itinerary. Fires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
  • All trail-side camps have primitive toilets, marked sites, poles for hanging food and a nearby water source.
  • Cross-Country Zone Camping: there are no maintained trails, campsites or amenities in cross-country zones. Camp at least 1/4 mile away from any road or established trail, and 100' from water sources. Cross-country camping is not permitted for those hiking the complete Wonderland Trail.
  • Summer Party Size Limit (May 15th - September 30th): 5 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation. Families are an exception to this rule (parents + children).
  • Winter Party Size Limit (October 1 - May 14th): 12 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation.
  • Groups (defined as 6 - 12 people) are permitted in 25 designated sites throughout the park, and when camping on snow in Alpine Zones.
  • Climbing Permits are required year-round for any day or overnight travel on glaciers or above 10,000', including Little Tahoma. The Climbing Permit also serves as the wilderness camping permit for overnight trips. Wilderness Camping Permits are free while a Climbing Permit requires the purchase of an annual Climbing Pass for each member of the party.

Fishing Information

The Owyhigh Lakes are open to fishing. A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Mount Rainier National Park:

  • A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters.
  • Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Always contact the Park before setting out for the latest guidelines.
  • Fishing for Bull Trout, Dolly Varden, Coastal Cutthroat and Chinook (King) Salmon is strictly prohibited in Park waters.

Park Lakes:

  • There is no catch limit in Park lakes.

Streams and Rivers:

  • Daily catch: Six pounds of fish plus one additional fish, not to exceed 12 fish.
  • Possession: 1 day's limit
  • Minimum size: none
  • The Ohanapecosh River and its tributaries are open to fly fishing only. The use of bait or other lures (except artificial flies) is not permitted.

The following areas are closed to fishing:

  • Klickitat Creek above the White River Entrance water supply intake
  • Ipsut Creek above the Ipsut Creek Campground water supply intake
  • Laughingwater Creek above the Ohanapecosh water supply intake
  • Edith Creek basin above the Paradise water supply intake
  • Frozen Lake
  • Reflection Lakes
  • Shadow Lake
  • Tipsoo Lake

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park (good for 7 days). Annual Passes are $50.
  • Pets and Bikes are not permitted on hiking trails or climbing routes in Mount Rainier National Park.
  • Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in Mount Rainier National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Owyhigh Lakes Trail is located 2.25 miles from the White River Entrance Station on White River Road. The parking lot is located on the right (north) side of the road; the trail begins across the street on the left (south) side.

Contact Information

Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

General Information

Lost and Found

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


No one has written any comments


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.