Backpackers will tell you that some of the best parts of hiking are seeing the rewards at the end of a long trek. One of these great gifts of nature is being able to watch the sunrise. While it’s certainly not easy having to wake up early and navigate through the trails in the darkness, that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is more than worth it. If you’re up for the adventure, then head to these places:
Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
Located in Maine, Cadillac Mountain is hands down the best place in the US to catch the sunrise. Between the months of October and March, this peak, which is the largest on the east coast, is the first place you can catch the sun coming up in the entire country. Cadillac Mountain is more than 1,500 feet tall, and the hike to the summit is about 4 miles. We recommend taking the South Ridge Trail for the most scenic views on the way up. Make sure you get here early!
Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunrise Point, which is the trailhead for the Queen’s Garden Trail here in Utah, gets its name for a reason. From the tip of Sunrise Point, you’ll be able to see the hoodoos of the canyons below, which light up beautifully when the sun comes up. Look further, and you can see Boat Mesa, the Sinking Ship, and Ponderosa Pines making up the view. Come here to watch the sun rise, then begin the 6.5 mile loop.
The South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
While it might seem cliche, if you’re planning on hiking the Grand Canyon and you don’t see the sunrise, then you’re truly missing out. The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s 7 Natural Wonders, and there’s nothing like seeing all of this beauty illuminated under the rising sun. There are several hikes leading to the South Rim, including the Bright Angel Trail. But really, anywhere here is a good seat. Remember, it’s quite the opposite of a mountain peak, so make sure you’re prepared for the hike back up.
Goodnow Mountain, Adirondacks
Seeing the sunrise from Goodnow Mountain will make you fall in love with seeing sunrises altogether. This experience will certainly change your mind about waking up early to see this sight. Goodnow Mountain is located near Lake Placid, New York, and the hike is about 2 miles up from the trailhead at NY 28N. Even if the summer, it can be freezing here, but it’ll all be worth it once you get that picture perfect view of the sun changing the colors, with the Adirondack peaks below.
Haleakala Peak, Haleakala National Park
While this sunrise destination is so popular that the park actually runs buses to the event, true backpackers will take their time getting here and appreciate it on their own terms. Located in Maui, Hawaii, this summit is 10,000 feet above sea level, and the area is extremely remote (when there’s not tour groups there). While there are many ways to get up, the Crater Trail is by far the best. Plan on spending a couple of days here, as seeing the sunrise is only one of the many cool things to see here.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park is a wonderful place to see the sun come up. Whether you choose to watch it from a point of lower elevation or you prefer to hike higher up to take it all in, the options for this special opportunity are endless. The Tipsoo Lake-Naches Peak Loop is three miles, where you can capture great views of Mount Rainier as the sun rises. Those up for a challenge can do the hike up Burroughs Mountain, which will provide you with the breathtaking scenery of Mount Rainier and the vistas, as the sun bathes it in color.
Lee Pass Trailhead to East Rim Trailhead, Zion National Park
If you’ve ever imagined what sandstone cliffs look like underneath the rising sun, then come to Zion National Park in Utah to see it all for yourself. There’s many secret trails here that will take you in and out of the narrow canyons and red walls, but Lee Pass to East Rim is best for this experience. Going before sunrise will ensure that you get to see the Kolob Canyons light up beneath the desert sun.
Sunrise Mountain, Appalachian Trail
Located in rural New Jersey, Sunrise Mountain is a decent stretch of the Appalachian Trail that is fantastic. The name says it all. The trail is nine miles, and no matter which route you take to hike, the view from the top when the sun comes up is perfect. Unlike national parks and larger mountains, this trail is a cozy and comfortable option for those looking for a hike a bit more personal.
Next time you head into the backcountry, make time to catch the sunrise.