Fall is the best time to hike this 13-mile out-and-back—frost has zapped the bugs that make the route barely tolerable in summer. First, stash your pack at the Sunrise Point trailhead and drive 3 more miles to visitor center parking. Then take the Sourdough Ridge Trail along a spectacular alpine ridge back to your stuff. Once on Sunrise Lake Trail, you’ll drop into switchbacks after passing the lake, then wander through alpine fir forest and meadows, reaching Clover Lake at 1.5 miles.
Climb 200 feet over a saddle, then drop gently through more forest and meadow under ridges of striated rock. You’ll pass side trails leading to Hidden Lake and Dick Lake at 2.6 and 2.9 miles, then finish with a climb through open meadow to a campsite at Upper Palisades Lake, nestled below the Sourdough Mountains at 5,840 feet.
CONTACT Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/mora
-Hike provided by Seabury Blair Jr., coauthor of Day Hike! Mount Rainier (Sasquatch Books)