Brown Peak is the rounded grassy mound at the located just east of the high point of the Palisades Trail. Located in the Sourdough Mountains in the dry, northeastern part of Mount Rainier National Park, Brown Peak presents no climbing difficulties and is really little more than a hike. Indeed, a decent climber's boot path will lead all the way to its summit. As such, Brown Peak is probably climbed very often by people of all abilities.
The main benefit of Brown Peak is that it provides spectacular views of The Palisades. Also, an ascent of Brown Peak can easily be combined with a climb of Slide Mountain. Slide Mountain is connected to Brown via a fine trail along the ridge one mile due north of Brown Peak.
For a very easy, laid back trip with no difficulties, and for an easy ramble through green parkland dotted with a multitude of subalpine tarns, Brown is a nice choice for a day.
Nearing the trail to the Brown Peak Summit, Brown Peak in background
Nearing the summit of Brown Peak, Palisades Lake in background
Drive SR-410 southeast from south of Seattle, heading through the towns of Enumclaw and into the Northeast gate of Mount Rainier National Park. In about five miles after the park entrance, find the turn-off to the White River Road. Pass through the Guard Station at the White River Road, and continue another 10.5 miles to a sharp bend in the road at 6100 feet. This is Sunrise Point. Park here in the large parking lot.
Find the trailhead of the Palisades Trail at the northeast corner of the parking area, and start your discouraging descent, losing 300 feet to Sunrise Lake in 1/2 mile. In another mile, reach pretty Clover Lake, as the trail makes inefficient ups and downs, losing elevation as quickly as it gains it. Another mile takes you past Dicks Lake (and camps), and finally, the trail reaches its highpoint at a pass betweeen The Palisades to the Southwest and Brown Peak to the Northeast. This is 3.5 miles from the Sunrise Point trailhead.
Look for a concealed (by a fallen tree) trail leading right (east) from the trail high point. This trail will steeply gain the West Ridge of Brown Peak, leading to a forested summit in about 1/2 mile. The best views will be lower down in the meadows. Great views of The Palisades are visible from here. Trip Stats: 8 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: 1200 feet with ups and downs. Difficulty: Class 1.
Red Tape and Camping
TOPO! Software Image
Brown Peak from near Sunrise Point
A fee of $15 per vehicle is required to enter Mount Rainier National Park. An Interagency Pass ($80/year) is also available that will grant unlimited access to all US National Parks and trailhead parking at all US Forest Service trailheads for one year. Once within the park, there are no other permits required for day-hiking in the area. If you are camping, camping permits are required and available at the White River Guard Station. They are free of charge.
The Park Service, in its infinite wisdom, has established campsites a Dicks Lake and Upper Palisades Lake. Of course, these are the buggiest, swampiest, holes along the entire trail. Camping is not permitted at the beautiful Hidden Lake or at Clover Lake. That's our Park Service for you. Bring lots of bug repellant.
Upper Palisade Lake from Brown Peak
Banshee Peak (right) and Cowlitz Chimneys (left) from Sunrise Point
For information including road closures and camping restrictions, you can contact Mount Rainier National Park at: Mt. Rainier National Park
Another great site is this excellent Mt. Rainier climbing blog, which gives up-to-date snowpack and road conditions on Mt. Rainier and the all of the roads: Mt. Rainier Climbing Page
"The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till the other is ready."
--Henry David Thoreau