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Palisades Lakes

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The combination of sprawling meadows, few trails, and virgin forest for cover makes the Palisades Lakes basin a haven for wildlife. This trail is the only one in the vast area between Huckleberry Creek and the White River, and it dead-ends at the lakes' basin. As a result, this wild high country gets relatively few human visitors. The broad wildflower meadows that blanket the upper flanks of the Sourdough Mountains (from Dege Peak to Slide Mountain) attract deer, elk, and mountain goats. During one late September visit, my intrepid hiking companion and I found ourselves enjoying a spectacular sunset with views of the alpenglow on the Palisades--a tall band of cliffs above Palisades Lakes. As the orange glow faded on the rock wall, the haunting call of bull elk in the midst of their rut--mating season--echoed across the meadows. Soon, no fewer than six bulls were bugling their challenges, converging onto our evening retreat. Fortunately, the big males noticed that the band of cow elk had moved off to the west, and the amorous bulls veered that way before challenging each other in a clash of wills, each seeking the right to mate. Even without the elk encounter, however, the hike was memorable for the incredible scenery at the lakes.

From the parking lot, cross the road near the apex of the hairpin turn to find the trailhead on the north side of the roadway. The trail descends through some gentle switchbacks for 0.5 mile to a trail junction. Go right and follow the path as it meanders through stands of forests, small forest glades, and broad alpine meadows.

At 1.5 miles, the trail skirts the shore of Clover Lake (a fine place to turn back for those wanting a shorter hike). The trail continues north around a small rocky spine and rolls out into a wet hillside awash in wildflowers. The water that seeps out of the hillside keeps a wide variety of flowers in bloom much of the summer. At 2.5 miles, the trail runs between the trio of lakes known as Tom, Dick, and Harry. There's a small campsite on the shore of Dick Lake.

The trail climbs from Dick Lake Camp, entering thicker stands of forest but still offering plenty of sun breaks for the next mile, where the trail enters the cirque of Upper Palisades Lake. The trail descends in 0.25 mile to the shores of the lake. Camping is available at Palisades Lakes--permits are required. Broad meadows run along the south and east sides of the lake basin. The tall wall of the Palisades towers to the west.
Driving Directions:

From Enumclaw, drive east 43 miles on State Route 410 to the Mount Rainier National Park White River Entrance. Veer right onto the Sunrise Road and follow it 12 miles west to the parking lot inside the hairpin turn at Sunrise Point. Note: Sunrise Road usually doesn't open until early July.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 58 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Palisades Lakes — Sep 09, 2013 — DayHiker50
Day hike
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I decided to take this trail in September to avoid all the bugs. They were everywhere, but none neve...
I decided to take this trail in September to avoid all the bugs. They were everywhere, but none never bothered me. This trail is an easy 3.5 miles with plenty of up and down sections that won't wear you out. At the end of the trail, the upper Palasades lake has dropped down quite a bit. Looks like 20ft of beach all the way around. The toilet at the camp site is in really good shape. The big rocky area on the opposite side of the campground has a trail going through it, but it doesn't really go anywhere. I hoofed it back to the main trail to get to the lower lake. There is a neat lookout near the "end of maintained trail" sign. Stop here and turn around. The "trail" to the lower lake started going down a slick ravine and I started thinking "why bother". You can see the lake from the lookout.

I turned around and headed back to check out the side trail to Hidden Lake. I think this is the best lake on the trail. Lots of great places to hang out and picnic. A great place to take the kids.

Now for the cross country adventure part which is very similar to the trip report posted just before mine. I noticed on Google Earth, that there was a trail going up from the end of Hidden Lake to a ridge with a couple of peaks. I decided to check it out. There was a "end of maintained trail" sign at the start. I brushed past small trees and then a straight up the mountain like on some of the I-90 corridor trails I've been on. Got to the top of the saddle and the peak I wanted to go to was a bit too far to check out, so I plowed through some bushes and got dumped into a huge meadow. Very reminiscent of the stuff on the Burroughs trail. Now I'm kind of lost. I can still go back the way I came, but that's a pain in the a**, so I looked around and saw a peak and a ridgeline that looked like the ridge behind the Sunrise Lodge. I figured that if I climb that, I can hit the trial there and then back to the car.

After an hour of semi scary rock scrambling, I made it to what I thought was Dege Peak near the lodge. Wrong! I unknowingly climbed Marcus Peak (6,962ft) which is located behind Dege Peak and a huge valley in between. At the top, there were thousands and thousands of ladybugs swarming around. Cuter than annoying flies for sure, but they were all over everything. Now the problem was to get back to the car which I could see from my location. Going back the way I came would have been more difficult, so I check out two gullys and went down the easier looking one. My plan was to go in an Easterly direction down the valley and then hit the trail eventually. Found an elk trail that put me on the right path. Scaled down about 200ft of scree to get to the main trail. My little detour was about 5 hours and I was totally burned out. A big thank you to the guy at the Sunrise Lodge who let me in just at closing time to get a large Pepsi.
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Hidden Lake, Palisades Lakes — Sep 08, 2013 — Karen Daubert
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
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I loved this hike and highly recommend it for families with children as well as for the more adventu...
I loved this hike and highly recommend it for families with children as well as for the more adventurous who want to combine a great hike with a summit or two.

My goal was to explore this area for the first time and enjoy what has become my annual fall adventure on the Sunrise trails of Mt. Rainier. I left the trail head at 8:30 and headed down the trail. For those with young children, the first of the beautiful lakes is arrived within a mile and it is lovely - just the thing for a hot day. I continued on past the second sparkling lake - clover lake - and then to Tom, Dick, and Harry lakes.

At that point, instead of continued to the upper Palisades, I took the fork to Hidden Lake. And I was thrilled to discover that not only was the trail in excellent shape to Hidden Lake, but there was an excellent non-maintained trail from the west end of Hidden Lake up to the saddle above the lake. And what a view I enjoyed - of the entire Palisades valley and Green Park and Mt. Rainier - spectacular!

From the saddle, I continued west to reach the meadow area and then simply meandered north to the top of Palisades. And to my surprise, there was a summit register at the top placed by the Mountaineers and on the register, I found WTA's own Rebecca and her husband Dan.

From the top of Palisades, I backtracked to the saddle and then headed up to Marcus which is not a hike, but a scramble with some rock moves at the top. I stayed on the west side of the ridge past the little tarn and then up to the ridge just below the summit. The last 50 feel required the use of hands and some careful route-finding. I enjoyed the summit, took some photos and was headed back down by 12:30.

Instead of re-tracing my steps, I explored the valleys and meadows below Marcus and ended up in a complete loop - only re-tracing my steps the final mile. To my delight, the parking lot was packed and I enjoyed many conversations with young families who were out for the beautiful day.

Oh - and the huckleberries were spectacular!
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Palisades Lakes — Jul 22, 2013 — jparkinson
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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Great hike with lots of wildflowers.....not much wildlife though. I took my girls (13 & 9) and it wa...
Great hike with lots of wildflowers.....not much wildlife though. I took my girls (13 & 9) and it was a little tougher hike than I had thought. 2 hours each way for us with a couple breaks. The hike back out has some pretty steep hills to hike back up after packing in. Lots of bugs the whole way in. We stayed at site #1 at Upper Palisades lake which is the better site of the two. It's close to water and bear pole.....long trek to the toilet though. Will do this hike again next year! Trail was in great shape
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Palisades Lakes — Jul 21, 2013 — EckartS
Day hike
Issues: Bugs
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Upper Palisades Lake, Brown Peak, Peak 6505 There are 54 trip reports to Upper Palisades Lake on th...
Upper Palisades Lake, Brown Peak, Peak 6505
There are 54 trip reports to Upper Palisades Lake on the WTA web site, and several combined this hike with a visit to Hidden Lake, but only few explored the backcountry in the other direction toward Brown Peak and Peak 6505. Most trip reports for Upper Palisades Lake are remarkably similar. This is a popular trail, at least the first three miles of it. For something new, once I could see Upper Palisades Lake below me, I tried the unmarked trail up Brown Peak which leaves the Palisades Lake trail in NE direction at a junction just above Upper Palisades Lake. A short 360-ft. ascent takes one to a slope below Brown Peak (6332 ft.) where one gets the first glimpse of Bear Park on the other side. The summit of Brown Peak is forested and does not offer any views. For panoramic views, it is better to proceed along the ridge to Peak 6505 to the north which has less tree coverage. Instead of dropping directly down from the place where one first sees Bear Park, it is easier to follow the wooded ridge to the east (to the right) down a short distance where a better trail traverses the steep slope toward the saddle between Brown Peak and Peak 6505. Another faint trail descends down into Bear Park (no bears to be seen this time of the day). The entire ridge is prime elk habitat. The area reeks of elk urine and it is difficult to find a place to sit down without stepping into elk droppings. From the saddle one can ascend the ridge to Peak 6505 until one gets a good view of Peak 6620 further north, an unstable geologic feature that on its east side continues to drop rocks into the valley below, similar to Slide Mountain (further north) that once buried Lost Creek (the creek draining Lower Palisades Lake is lost under the rock slide). There does not seem to be a trail around this steep rock face of Peak 6620. On the way up to Brown Peak, shortly after departing from the Upper Palisades Lake trail, instead of going up to Brown Peak, a faint trail (unexplored on this trip) contours through tall timber around the west side of Brown Peak toward the saddle between Brown Peak and Peak 6505. This contour trail might save some elevation gain, but not much else (no views). My altimeter which works in 10-ft. increments, cumulatively recorded 720 ft. up and 910 ft. down from the parking lot to the junction above Upper Palisades Lake and 910 ft. up and 700 ft. down from the junction back to the parking lot. From the junction to Peak 6505 it is about 680 ft. up and 150 ft. down.
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Hidden Lake, Palisades Lakes — Sep 19, 2012 — Oldwhiner
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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Fall is a great time to do the Palisades Lake trail and the spur to Hidden Lake. I took some time to...
Fall is a great time to do the Palisades Lake trail and the spur to Hidden Lake. I took some time to do this as a week day hike. Highly recommended!! Saw 8 others but had hours of quiet trail and lake time.The trails here are in great shape. There's yoyo hiking both ways, but you don't have to be uber-fit to enjoy this trail. Fall colors are coming on. Don't forget to save a little energy for the long hill up to the trailhead on the way back.
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Photo by hikingqueen.
WTA worked here!
Mt. Rainier -- NE - Sunrise / White River
Mount Rainier National Park
Roundtrip 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain 1800 ft
Highest Point 6150 ft
Mountain views
User info
Dogs not allowed
National Park/Refuge entry fee required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails (Nelson & Bauer - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Mount Rainier East
No. 270

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  • Trail Work 2011
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