Sunrise hikes near Seattle

Sometimes the best way to start the day is to see the sun rising over an epic peak after an invigorating hike to the summit. It sets the tone for your day and your perspective, especially if you choose a good hike. Here are the best sunrise hikes near Seattle, in my experience.

Hiker shadowed by the rising sun
Rattlesnake Ledge Trail

15+ Best Sunrise Hikes Near Seattle

I’ve listed the hikes in order of increasing distance from Seattle.

1. Rattlesnake Ledge

Location: North Bend
Distance from Seattle: 35 miles
Hike stats: 5.3 mi, 1460 ft, moderate
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: none

Rattlesnake Ledge is one of the most popular sunrise hikes in Washington state. It’s in North Bend, so easy to reach, relatively easy to hike, and has both mountains and a lake view from the top.

This one generally makes for a better sunrise hike because the sun comes up behind the mountains and illuminates both the ledge and the lake in the most captivating way possible.

Sunrise Hikes Near Seattle
Rattlesnake Lake Trail

2. Mailbox Peak

Location: near North Bend
Distance from Seattle: 37.2 miles
Hike stats: 7.7 mi, 4000 ft, hard
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: Discover Pass

Mailbox Peak is another popular hiking destination near Seattle, known for its challenging trail and vastly rewarding, 360 degree views. This is a much more difficult trail than Rattlesnake and is often used as a training trail for those who are planning to summit Rainier.

3. Dirty Harry’s Balcony

Location: near North Bend
Distance from Seattle: 39 miles
Hike stats: 4.2 mi, 1354 ft, moderate
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: Discover

The Balcony is a sweet hike on your way to Snoqualmie Pass. It makes for a great sunrise spot, but the very best spot is the ledge just before the balcony. With a huge boulder outcropping, there is plenty of space to gather and appreciate the rising sun.

Dirty Harry's Balcony at sunrise
Dirty Harry’s Balcony Trail

4.Snow Lake

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Distance from Seattle: 53 miles
Hike stats: 6.7 mi, 1700 ft, moderate
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass

The colors of Snow Lake are unforgettable on a sunny day, but the colors of the lake in the golden hour of sunrise are even more astonishing. Plan to arrive in time for one and stay for the other, and you won’t regret it, though you will need bug spray.

5. Gold Creek Pond

Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Distance from Seattle: 55 miles
Hike stats: 1.2 mi, 45 ft, easy
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass

An extremely easy hike in the summer and one of the easier ones in winter too, Gold Creek Pond provides a lovely reflection of the sun as it’s rising.

The most dramatic sunrises are found in the late fall or early spring, when there is snow present in some places to provide a dramatic scene with the changing colors.

Sun peaking through the trees at sunrise
Hex Mountain Trail

6.Mount Dickerman

Location: near Darrington
Distance from Seattle: 71 miles
Hike stats: 7.8 mi, 3854 ft, hard
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Mount Dickerman is a popular hike for sunrise, offering absolutely stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail is extremely challenging, gaining significant elevation as you get near the summit. It’s also very rewarding.

7. Vesper Peak

Location: near Index
Distance from Seattle: 74 miles
Hike stats: 7.5 mi, 4133 ft, hard
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass

If you’re the sort of hiker that has a bucket list, add this to it. It’s especially beautiful at sunrise, but well worth your time and effort whenever you can go. For experienced hikers, capable of route-finding and a little scrambling too.

8. Hex Mountain

Location: near Ronald
Distance from Seattle: 91 miles
Hike stats: 7.1 mi, 2650 ft, hard
Dog friendly:  yes, on leash
Parking pass: none

The area is still recovering from the Jolly Mountain fire of 2017, but is perfectly beautiful, especially in the winter.

Be sure to check trail reports, as you may need snowshoes to navigate this one. You may not, however, as it depends entirely on the weather and how popular the trail is at any specific time. Parking is extremely limited and arriving early is a good idea, even on weekdays.

Hex Mountain at sunrise in the snow
Hex Mountain Trail

9. Shriner Peak Lookout

Location: near Paradise Inn
Distance from Seattle: 91 miles
Hike stats: 8.2 mi, 3408 ft, hard
Dog friendly: no
Parking pass: none

A challenging workout, if there ever was one. This hike is full of fantastic views, especially of Rainier at the top. But there’s also Mount St Helens, Mt Adams, and the Tatoosh range as an added bonus. Certainly a must-do hike if you can manage it.

10.High Rock lookout

Location: near Ashford
Distance from Seattle: 100 miles
Hike stats: 3.2 mi, 1329 ft, hard
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: none

Getting to the trail might be the hardest part of this hike. The forest road is long and full of potholes, with a small parking lot towards the top. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with possibly one of the best views of Rainier in Washington. Sunrise or not.

11. Lake Ingalls

Location: near Ronald
Distance from Seattle: 114 miles
Hike stats: 8.4 mi, 2939 ft, hard
Dog friendly: no
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Lake Ingalls is stunning in the spring, when the lake begins to melt and the baby goats are full of energy. It’s breathtaking in the full light of the day when the sun sparkles on the deepest blue imaginable in the lake itself.

And it’s enchanting in the fall when the larches take the stage for a few wonderful weeks. But each of these is even more impressive when you see them in the golden glow of a gorgeous sunrise. One of my favorites by far.

Lake Ingalls trail in the early morning
Lake Ingalls Trail

12. Hidden Lake

Location: near Marblemount
Distance from Seattle: 116 miles
Hike stats: 7.55 mi, 3254 ft, hard
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass:  none

One of the most rewarding parts of a sunrise hike, besides the sunrise itself, is the joy of seeing the trail in daylight on the return trip.

When I did this hike, I had no idea I was walking through fields of wildflowers until we were on our way down. Needless to say, the way down may have taken longer than the way up. Go when they’re blooming, for the best kind of surprise.

Hidden Lake just as the sun is rising
Hidden Lake Trail

13. Mt Walker

Location: near Quilcene
Distance from Seattle: 117 miles
Hike stats: 5 mi, 2135 ft, hard
Dog friendly: yes, on leash
Parking pass: none

This one has a lovely north and a south view, which makes up for the fact there are actually two ways to get to the summit. You can hike (rather steep incline) or drive, but the reward comes from the effort if you’re physically capable.

If you do drive, please be considerate of hikers and slow down a lot when you drive by them, so you’re not covering them with dust.

14. Sunrise Ridge, ONP

Location: near Port Angeles
Distance from Seattle: 154 miles
Hike stats: 6.9 mi, 2043 ft, hard
Dog friendly: no
Parking pass: National Park Pass

A steady round of switchbacks to a 360-degree view of the Olympics. There are a few areas with narrow footing and steep drop-offs, so you should be a confident hiker to do this one easily, especially in the dark. Otherwise a spectacular place to be for sunrise.

15.Mt Saint Helens – Ptarmigan Trail

Location: near Cougar
Distance from Seattle: 189 miles
Hike stats: 8.5 mi, 4655 ft, hard
Dog friendly: no
Parking pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Start well before dawn so that you are above the tree line as the sun is coming up. If you time it right, you’ll have a jaw-dropping view of Mt Adams at sunrise and beautiful landscapes and colors all around once you reach the boulder field.

You could try to navigate the boulder field in the dark, to reach the summit at sunrise, but you would have to be extremely confident and skilled with your navigation skills. And possibly have done this hike a few times previously.

Sunrise hikes near Seattle
Mt St Helen’s Trail View of Mt Adams

Sunrise or Sunset

Some hikes are great for both sunrise and sunset and are described in my earlier article, with sunset hikes. Closest to Seattle, in the Central Cascades, are Mt Si, Silver Mountain, and Mt Pilchuck.

Fremont Lookout is possibly the most popular one at Mt Rainier, while Mt Ellinor and Mt Storm King are great choices for the Olympic National Forest. In the North Cascades, Park Butte is a beautiful option for hiking and Artist Point is a popular choice with significantly less effort than the rest.

Which is better, sunrise or sunset?

That depends on your personality and your perspective.

Advantages of sunrise over sunset

  • less popular and less crowded
  • you get your exercise checked off early for the day
  • your mood is sky-high for the entire day

Disadvantages of sunrise hikes

  • the trail is dark on the way up, so if you don’t know the trail very well a sunset hike is probably a better idea
  • waking up well before dawn
Sun rising in the mountains
Rattlesnake Lake Trail

What to Bring on a Sunrise Hike

Preparing for a sunrise hike requires a little planning to make sure you have all the essential items for a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • A comfortable and sturdy backpack to carry all your belongings.
  • Stay hydrated during the hike. Carry enough water to last the duration of the hike.
  • Pack some light, energy-boosting snacks like granola bars, nuts, or dried fruits.
  • Since you’ll start before sunrise, a flashlight or headlamp will help you navigate in low-light conditions. I always bring extra batteries too. Sometimes those headlamps have a way of getting turned on while sitting in your backpack, running out the battery without you even using it!
  • Dress in layers, as it can be chilly before the sun rises. Bring a light jacket or a hoodie, and consider wearing moisture-wicking clothing.
  • Wear comfortable and supportive footwear suitable for hiking.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the early morning sun.
  • Keep your head warm and protect yourself from the sun.
  • Carry a basic first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, pain relievers, etc.
  • If you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, have a map and compass (and know how to use them) as a backup to your electronic devices.
  • Carry some form of identification and emergency contact information in case of an accident.
  • Leave no trace and bring a small trash bag to pack out any waste you generate. Better yet, pick up any you see along the trail too.
  • Depending on the location and season, insects may be active even during early mornings.
  • A whistle can be useful to attract attention if you get lost or need help.
Outline of hiker in front of sunrise

Sunrise Hikes Near Seattle FAQs

Some common questions, and answers, about sunrises in the Seattle area.

Where is the best place to see sunrise in Seattle?

Kerry Park offers the best place to see the sunrise in Seattle, providing stunning panoramic views of the city skyline, including the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, and Elliot Bay.

Where can I watch the sunrise in WA?

In Washington State, there are numerous beautiful spots to watch the sunrise. Some popular options include Mount Rainier National Park for a breathtaking alpine experience, Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park for stunning mountain vistas, and Rattlesnake Ledge with a rewarding view of the surrounding landscape.

Can you see the sunrise from Rattlesnake Ledge?

Yes, you can see the sunrise from Rattlesnake Ledge in Washington State. The popular hiking trail offers a rewarding view of the Snoqualmie Valley and nearby mountains, making it a fantastic spot to witness the sunrise. It’s a moderate hike, about 2 miles each way, and the early morning ascent is worth the stunning sunrise vista.

How do you time a sunrise hike?

Timing a sunrise hike requires some preparation. Check the sunrise time for your location on the desired date. Know the hike’s length and difficulty level to estimate the time needed to reach the viewpoint. Begin hiking well before sunrise to allow time for the ascent. Carry a headlamp for hiking in the dark safely. Check weather conditions to ensure clear skies for the best sunrise experience. Be flexible and arrive early to secure a good spot for viewing the sunrise.

Photographer catching the sunrise in the mountains
Rattlesnake Ledge Trail

Final Thoughts on Sunrise Hikes in Washington

For me, there’s nothing quite like starting the day with a breathtaking sunrise over a majestic mountain peak after a revitalizing hike to the summit.

The hardest part, for me, is waking up for it. If you’re thinking you might be the same, do it anyway. You won’t regret it. I’ve listed hikes here with a variety of levels, so I hope there’s one that will work for you. Enjoy the view!