In less than a mile, this kid friendly hike at Mt.Rainier will have you at a magical sub alpine lake where your kids can splash and look for frogs. What you won’t find on this hike are crowds, because this special trail seems to hide in plain sight!
Yep, the Sunrise Lake Trail starts across the road from the jam packed viewpoint just before the final stretch of road up to the Sunrise visitors’ center. Very few of the folks who get out to take pictures will venture on the trail, though. In fact, on our recent Saturday visit, the lots at the viewpoint and at the visitors’ center were full, but we saw just two other groups on our hike.
Now, you won’t get any big mountain views on this hike, so it’s probably not the one to do if you’re new to the area, or entertaining visitors, but I think it has a charm of its own as you descend into a green valley with a twinkling emerald lake in view.
The first part of the hike is a wide, smooth path as you drop into the lake basin. There are some roots and rocks, but any school age hiker or sure footed preschooler should manage just fine.
In about half a mile you’ll see the emerald lake ahead. Head down to explore it, or if you want a longer hike, follow the sign to the right to Clover Lake, which is a mile further or to one of the lakes or campsites beyond.
If Sunrise Lake is your destination, the kids can enjoy looking for frogs or wading. Mine loved balancing on logs, wading, and chasing dragonflies.
When you’ve had your fill, simply head back the way you came. Unfortunately, what goes down, must go up, so the way back may have you questioning this hike’s, “Easy,” rating. My boys raced right up it, but I found it to be a bit of a fanny kicker, even with its short length (the whole thing is a mile and a half round trip). Feel free to use it as an excuse to stop for an ice cream on the way home!
Things to know if you go: The trail is in Mount Rainier National Park, so you will need a pass. If you have a 4th grader you can get one for free.
The trail starts at the north side of the road by the Sunrise viewpoint. You will see a big sign-I think it says, “Palisades Lakes,” which is the name of the (much) longer hike mentioned above.
We weren’t bothered by a single bug, but it’s always a good idea to have some bug spray when you’re hiking near a lake this time of year, as well as the rest of the Ten Essentials. While this trails is underused, the parking areas will still be busy. Go early or late if you’re going on a weekend. Better yet-plan a weekday visit. Do go soon, though. Sunrise has the highest elevation of the park’s entrances, and the visitor’s center closes on September 26th. The road is currently scheduled to be open until October 25th, but it will close earlier if there is a heavy snowfall. And, on that note….this is a curvy road that goes up high. If you have issues with driving to heights, go with a driver. 🙂
You can read more about this hike at the Wta.org site here. A description of the longer option I mentioned is here. The second one has the better description of where to park if you’re not clear on that.
For more kid friendly hikes near Mt.Rainier, you’ll want to check out this post, too!