Mowich Lake Entrance & Paul Peak Trailhead

A dirt road in a forest leads to a parking area on the right with a small sign reading
The Paul Peak Trailhead doubles as the Mowich Lake Entrance in a remote area of the park.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts
15.5 miles southeast of Carbonado, Washington on SR165 (Mowich Lake Road)
National Historic Landmark District

Parking - Auto, Picnic Table, Restroom, Restroom - Seasonal, Toilet - Vault/Composting, Trailhead, Trash/Litter Receptacles

Season: Summer (July-October) 
SR165 (Mowich Lake Road) is open to vehicles during the summer season only, typically July-October. During the winter, snowshoers and crosscountry skiers can still use the closed road.  


Mowich Lake Entrance is in the northwest corner of the park along SR165. The entrance is 15.5 miles southeast of Carbonado, Washington on the Mowich Lake road at the park boundary, with Mowich Lake 5.5 miles further down the road. NOTE: Most of this road is gravel and some sections have rough conditions with potholes. Please drive with caution. 

Mount Rainier National Park was one of the first national parks to allow private vehicles within the park. After completing the road to Paradise in 1915, park officials set plans for a road around the mountain, which included a section named the Westside Road that would connect Carbon River to the Longmire area. The Mowich Lake area was intended as a separate junction and point of attraction along that road. In 1921, the Carbon River Road was constructed, followed by the start of constructing the southern section of the Westside Road in 1926. In 1933, the northern portion of the road via Mowich Lake was completed. 

Within the first few years after being built, all sections of completed road were damaged due to flooding. By 1934, park officials decided against extending Westside Road all the way to Carbon due to the immense cost and potential negative impacts to the landscape. As a result, the Mowich Lake Road wasn’t opened to the public until 1955 and has undergone very little improvement since then. To this day, Mowich Lake is one of the more isolated areas of the park thanks to heavy winters and a rough drive on the unpaved road. Although more difficult to reach, this entrance provides access to remarkable hiking, backpacking, and camping, as well as fishing and boating at Mowich Lake. In the winter, the unplowed road makes a relatively easy snowshoeing route. 



Immediately near the national park boundary is the Paul Peak Trailhead. This trail ventures south for 3.1 miles to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. While the trail does not reach the summit of Paul Peak, it features old growth forest, unique views of Mount Rainier, and ample amounts of solitude. Take a right at the Wonderland Trail junction to continue for less than a mile to Mowich River Camp. 

Continue along the Mowich Lake Road to reach Mowich Lake, which includes trailheads for more popular hikes like the Tolmie Peak Trail and Spray Park Trail. Stream crossings can be particularly hazardous in spring and fall with higher water levels and it is not uncommon for log bridges to be washed out during heavy rain events. Check updates on the conditions of bridges and crossings before your trip, and practice techniques for safe stream crossing. Snow will linger on the trails late into the season, requiring navigation and snow travel knowledge. In the winter, the road itself becomes a popular snowshoeing route. Because this area is so remote, there is no cell service or other connectivity, and help may be difficult to reach in the event of an emergency. Be sure to plan and prepare appropriately for your own safety. 



Five miles up the road is the Mowich Lake Campground, which is the smallest campground in Mount Rainier National Park with only 13 sites. This campground is drive in and first-come, first-served with self-registration. There are no other car camping options nearby within the park. All backcountry camping within park boundaries requires a permit. The closest backcountry camps are Mowich River Camp, Eagle Peak Camp, and Ipsut Creek Camp. Permits and current trail conditions are available park-wide from wilderness information centers, ranger stations, and visitor centers. The nearest ranger station is the Carbon River Ranger Station. Due to high demand during the summer season, it is strongly recommended to make a wilderness permit reservation if you are planning to hike the Wonderland Trail. Hikers doing the complete Wonderland Trail are limited to camping in designated camps only - the use of cross-country zones is not permitted. Treat water before drinking. Fires are prohibited. Pets on a leash are allowed along the Mowich Lake Road and in the developed campground. Pets are not permitted on any trails, including the lakeshore trails.

Mount Rainier National Park

Last updated: April 5, 2024