Marcus Peak is the thimble-shaped mountain just northeast of the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park. It lies in a setting of green meadows on the eastern flank of Mt. Rainier, and has great views of the surrounding area such as Green Park, Banshee Peak, Cowlitz Chimneys, and The Palisades.
A scramble of Marcus, while relatively short, includes a little bit of everything. There are a surprising number of lakes you will encounter on the short approach, and the trip is capped off with an exciting little scramble which includes a little exciting exposure and airiness to the summit.
A scramble of Marcus Peak can be combined with a number of other peaks in the area, including Dege Peak and The Palisades. A poorly-defined ridge trail connects all of these objectives, so that enterprising scramblers can feasibly knock off three peaks in one trip. The green of the meadows, combined with the glistening whiteness of Rainier, makes this a beautiful place.
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. At 2.6 miles from the parking lot, arrive at a trail junction with the Hidden Lake trail. Turn left towards Hidden Lake, arriving in 0.6 miles at the very pretty, clear lake. Continue on unmaintained trail to the pass at the head of the basin containing Hidden Lake. Arriving at the pass, you are on a high plateau with Marcus Peak on your left (south) and The Palisades on your right (north). Head towards Marcus peak. Even though the peak looks cliffy, there are actually a number of options here. You can head towards the summit block, finding a very broad gully just to climber's left of the summit. This will take you to the east ridge of Marcus and a mostly Class 3 scramble to the summit. For somewhat easier and less exposed climbing, head to the saddle on the northeast of Marcus Peak. Once at the saddle, less exposed climbing lies on the right (west) side of the ridge. Whatever route you choose, you will ultimately encounter some exposure and mostly Class 3, with perhaps a Class 4 move thrown in here and there. THIS IS LOOSE, CRAPPY ROCK. BE SURE TO BRING A HELMET IF WITH A LARGE GROUP.
Trip Stats: Distance: About 9 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: About 2,000 feet with ups and downs. Difficulty: Class 2, 3, and 4.
Red Tape & Camping
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.
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