The Palisades are located in an interesting area of Mount Rainier National Park, the dry northeast side near the Sunrise Lodge. As you hike to the Palisades, you will pass through a valley containing at least five subalpine lakes and several streams. Some of the great appeal of this area is the ability to cool off with a nice dip in a lake after a hot day in the mountains. The area is fairly marshy too, so in season, make sure to bring insect repellant.
An ascent of the Palisades can be combined with climbs of both Brown Peak to its northeast or Marcus and even Dege Peak to its south. While views of Mount Rainier are limited when approaching the peak on the Palisades Trail, once on top of the ridge, dozens of peaks including Mount Rainier become visible. The Palisades are climbed very infrequently, at least judged by the summit register. Our party was only the first ascent since March of this year, and the second this entire year.
This is a fun, moderate scramble in a high, dry area of Mount Rainier National Park.
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. The great cliffy basin of the Palisades are a very impressive sight from here. Leave the trail here, heading to the Northeast Ridge of the Palisades. Climb through meadows, then up talus to the nose of the ridge, climbing about 500 feet to the ridge-top. Cross over to the west side of the ridge, traversing south to a basin. This basin contains a small tarn during most of the year, but this tarn also can dry completely out.
Cross across this basin to the North Ridge of the Palisades. Climb south through stunted, dwarf sub-alpine trees and finally on rock to the summit of the Palisades.
An ascent of the Palisades can also be made from the saddle betweeen Marcus Peak and the Palisades. Leave the Palisades Trail near Dicks Lake on the trail to Hidden Lake. The climb to Hidden Lake is on good trail and reaches the lake in about 1/2 mile and about 400 feet of elevation gain. Reach the far end of Hidden Lake and find an unmaintained trail climbing to the saddle between Marcus and the Palisades. At the saddle, head north, climbing through trees to reach the summit of the Palisades.
The climb from the Northeast is a much more aesthetic climb which allows views of the Palisades rock formation. A loop trip, and combining an ascent of the Palisades with Brown Peak and Marcus Peak is also possible. Trip Stats: 9 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: 3,300 feet with ups and downs. Difficulty: Class 2 and navigational challenges.
Red Tape and Camping
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.
External LinksMt. 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