Let’s be honest, coffee is the real MVP of early camp mornings — especially when sunrise hikes are involved. Our friends at Nature’s Coffee Kettle understand that your body needs a swift kick in the butt at 5am. That’s why their gourmet coffee comes in multiple flavors that are convenient to brew at the campground.
It’s hard enough waking up early on the weekend, but pulling yourself out of your warm and cozy sleeping bag? Forget about it. One of camping’s greatest joys exists in the cozy confines of a down, zippered cocoon.
But trust us: these sunrise hikes will make you want to lace up your hiking boots and don the headlamp in the wee hours of the morning.
It’s Worth Waking up Early for These Sunrise Hikes
From Utah to Maine to the prairie of Missouri, rise and shine, pack the camp coffee, and hit the trail before the rest of the world wakes up.
1. Mt. Timpanogos, UT
A steady stream of headlamps light the way to Mt. Timpanogos’ 11,752′ summit during the hours of 12pm and 5am on any given summer day. This popular hike becomes more popular with large groups vying for the sunrise summit. Doing so often requires an all-nighter, meeting up at the trailhead around midnight or 1am.
You can bring your adventure pup on this 14 mile round-trip hike. Be prepared, though, as the trail climbs over 4500′ and can take hikers 8 hours or more to complete. Backpackers can also make the trek and setup camp at Emerald Lake, about 2 miles shy of the summit.
Camp at Timpooneke Campground for an early start.
2. Garfield Peak Trail, OR
As the sun rises over Crater Lake, you’ll be thankful for your 3:30am alarm. Not only does a palette of pinks, oranges, and yellows illuminate the rock faces of the caldera, but you have the opportunity to experience the forest as it wakes up.
Garfield Peak requires a bit of a climb, about 1,000′ in 1.5 miles. The hike begins at the Crater Lake Lodge and heads straight up the nearly 8,000′ peak. From the peak, the 360-degree views show-off the Klamath Basin and southern Cascades.
3. Diamond Grove Prairie Conservation Area, MO
Who says sunrise can only be spectacular from a mountaintop? Watching early golden light snake its way through an open prairie might soon be on your “best sunrise” list. The Diamond Grove prairie formed over the past few centuries by fires ignited by Native Americans for horticulture and hunting, and by natural grazing from bison, deer, and elk.
The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends hikers bring a map and compass when exploring the 570-acre tallgrass prairie. Gates open at 4am, and no extensive elevation gain is required for catching the sunrise.
Pitch your tent at Neosho City Campground for an early morning excursion.
4. Sunrise Peak, WA
Views of Mt. Adams are easy to come by in the Pacific Northwest, but finding a spot to experience the entire mountain, lit up in sunrise glory, more difficult to find. The aptly named Sunrise Peak, rising nearly 6,000′ into the southern Cascade region, offers the best seat in the house. 3 miles and 1500′ of elevation gain requires a bit more physical output than desired at 4am, but the panoramic mountain views will more than make up for it.
Located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Sunrise Peak hike starts at trail #262A after a series of turns down Forest Service roads. Make sure to bring enough water as most of the hike traverses land above creeks and rivers.
There are plenty of primitive and established campsites available in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
5. Cadillac Mountain, ME
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the peak that receives the first rays of sunlight in the United States. Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park, competes with two other viewpoints as the first land to see light in the US (both competitors are also in Maine), but almost always wins.
Making the sunrise trek requires stamina and determination. Over 2200′ of elevation gain in 3.75 miles on rocky, steep terrain means you definitely don’t want to forget the headlamp as you maneuver the terrain.
6. Huron Sunrise Trail, MI
Less of a trail and more of a paved boardwalk, the Huron Sunrise Trail wanders along the Lake Huron shoreline, passing by dunes, streams, and shops. The trail terminates at the 40-mile point lighthouse, where you’ll want a blanket to sit back and enjoy the sunrise. Don’t think you need to make it to the lighthouse at sunrise, though. The entirety of the 11-mile path catches the sun as it rises over one of the Great Lakes.
Many enjoy this trail because it transitions from city to state park. Enjoy the hiking trails of Hoeft State Park or Herman Vogler Recreation Area after the sunrise (or before if you’re feeling extra ambitious). Michigan locals believe the Huron Sunrise Trail marks one of the best sections of the Lake Huron shoreline.
7. Pine Mountain Trail, VA
An 11.3-mile loop connects the Spur, Appalachian, and Pine Mountain Trails in the Mount Roger’s Recreation Area in Virginia. When you reach the Rhododendron Gap around mile 3.3, you’ll find a outcropping where you can scramble up the sandstone and watch the sunrise over the namesake flowers and Mt. Rogers to the left.
You can enjoy free camping at Mount Roger’s Recreation Area while you’re at it. So why not stay a couple nights? Then you’ll have a chance to sleep in, and enjoy sitting by the creek with your coffee.
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