Near Mount Rainier, Washington, is the incredible Palisades Trail that takes you nearly 3,000 feet in elevation among the steep walls of Washington's best-known national park.
The Palisades Trailhead is off Highway 410 in central Washington. It's just east of Olympia and Seattle and northeast of Portland. Most people will get there via Highway 5 or Highway 12 from Yakima. It's about 28 miles from Enumclaw and just beyond the scenic viewpoint for Skookum Falls.
The trailhead is not very visible from the road, so you're going to want to keep a close lookout for it. Luckily, it's pretty popular, so you're likely to spot it just from other cars being parked there.
Getting to the Palisades Trail
Use the map below to navigate to the Palisades Trailhead:
Hiking the Palisades Trail
This is not an easy trail, but boy, is it worth it! The trail is hard from the start, but with 2,600 feet of elevation spread out across 8 miles out and 8 miles back, there are plenty of flatter, easier sections to enjoy.
Right from Highway 410, the trail climbs steeply. The first 200-300 feet or so are quite steep and have been known to deter more than one hiker. In only about 1/2 a mile, there is a junction with the White River Trail. Stay left here along the Palisades Trail and up some switchbacks along the side of Dalles Creek.
As you pass the switchbacks, you're likely to notice a few shortcuts that cut off part of the end of each switchback. While these might seem like a good idea, they're very loose, and with how popular the trail is, erosion can become a real issue.
From here, keep your ears open for Lower Dalles Falls. It's off the trail, and you won't be able to see it very well unless you take a little detour off the trail.
You'll find a staircase up ahead, take it up and continue uphill. There, you'll cross two wooden bridges over creeks about .2 miles apart. After the second bridge, you'll be about 1.5 miles into the trail. At 1.7 miles are views of Sun Top Mountain and Skookum Falls.
It's around this point that the trail flattens out. You'll find that the first and last parts of the trail are the hardest, with a nicer middle part to enjoy. On your left and right will be two tall rock walls that make the hike really unique and beautiful.
Another 1.5 miles or so, you'll emerge from the forest at the top of Palisades Cliff, after which the trail is named! This is a fantastic place to take a break and enjoy views of the White River Valley. Mount Rainier, a gorgeous mountain in Washington, is very clearly in the distance, along with Sun Top Mountain in the valley.
The next viewpoint is at South Snoquera Point, around 4.5 miles or so from the start of the trail. Mount Rainier is front and center from this point. The next part of the trail is somewhat less attractive as it was the subject of recent timber harvesting. This does mean, though, that the forest is less dense, and you'll have a more expansive view of your surroundings.
At 6.5 miles, you'll find yourself at another junction with Ranger Creek Trail 1197. If you want to climb Little Ranger Peak, this is the access point. But most people take the Ranger Creek Trail in a loop and start downhill. You'll drop a lot in the next 5 miles, nearly 2,500 feet. The last part of the loop is a traverse from the junction with Trail 199. Take a right and hike to the valley bottom.
There is another junction for Snoquera Falls Trail. Take this for another mile before intersecting with the same trail again. Finally, continue for the final stretch of the trail, where you'll turn left and descend back to your car.
Where is the Palisades Trail?
The Palisades Trail is a popular, long trail that takes hikers into the middle of Washington and deep into the most beautiful parts of the state. It starts from Highway 410, about 28 miles from Enumclaw.
Is the Palisades Trail hard?
Yes, the Palisades Trail in Central Washington is pretty hard! It's very long, stretching to 16 miles (or more if you want!), and gains about 3,000 feet.