Wonderland Trail


Backpack - Wonderland Trail

Rainier Backpack - Wonderland

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  • Wed, Jul 21, 2010 — Fri, Jul 30, 2010
  • Foothills Hiking Committee
  • Day Hiking, Backpacking
  • Adults
  • Very Strenuous
  • Mileage: 93.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 25,500 ft

Wonderland Trip
Status: Trip is currently full
The famous Wonderland Trail, which completely circles Mount Rainier, is not only the finest long hike in Washington; it is considered by many to be one of the best in the world. The route provides a generous sampling of all the attractions in the Cascade Range including meadows choked with wildflowers, abundant and varied wildlife, old-growth forests, huge glaciers, impressive waterfalls, and scenic lakes. What will leave an indellible impression on your mind, however, are the ever-changing spectacular views of Mount Rainier, the Monarch of the Cascades.
Lorain, Douglas, Backpacking Washington p. 183.
Even though the trail around the mountain was not complete, [...] in 1915, over 100 men and women embarked on the trip of a lifetime. They came with hobnailed boots and fancy hats, plump dunnage bags and high spirits. They spent three weeks traveling clockwise, and took time out to climb the mountain, and finish hewing out the final section of trail over Panhandle Gap as they went. [...] This historic club outing established several firsts. It was the first 'group' encirclement of the mountain [... ,] the first mass assault on climbing the mountain. The name The Wonderland Trail was first used after their trip around the mountain. The camps were the first organized encampments in the backcountry. They took the first pack train around the mountain. Their glowing reports of the trip put the Wonderland Trail and the glorious Mount Rainier backcountry on the map!
Filley, Bette, The Big Fact Book About Mount Rainier pp. 270-1
Trip Stats
  • Distance: 122 Miles
  • Elev. Gain: 33,000 Feet
  • Time: 10 Days, 9 nights
  • Max Daily Distance: 15.7 miles
  • Max Daily Gain: 4,700 Feet
  • Mean Daily Distance: 12 miles
  • Mean Daily Gain: 3,300 Feet
  • Median Daily Distance: 12 miles
  • Median Daily Gain: 3,400 Feet
  • Min Daily Distance: 10 miles
  • Min Daily Gain: 2,100 Feet
Side Trips

Important: There are ~16 side trips planned along the way of varying strenuousness (up to 6 miles and 2,200 feet of gain), so don't expect to be limited to the typical Wonderland experience or expect what others say about wonderland trail stats to apply to this trip. Hazards

This list calls out particular hazards not present on many typical trips that you will want to review.
  • Snowfields. There are two areas that are typically snowbound in late July. So expect them to be snowbound. These areas are near spray park and panhandle gap [Bibl.1, p.137, 187-8]. Mitigations: Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and sturdy pole or equivalent.
  • Fords. Bridges frequently wash out along the Wonderland. Expect at least one significant river ford, since despite their best efforts rangers may not be able to replace washed out bridges in time for our trip. Mitigations: Keep aware of conditions as reported later in the spring and early summer, discuss conditions with the ranger when we pick up our permit, bring sturdy pole, look over http://www.wta.org/trail-news/signpost/river-crossing, and possible itinerary change if conditions are unsafe.
  • Exposure. Some sections of the trail have cliffs on one or both sides [Bibl.1, p.110]. Mitigations: Don't come if you can't handle heights or don't know.
  • Swaying suspension bridges. There are two such bridges, crossing the Carbon and Tahoma. If you're prone to seasickness or can't handle swaying with a 45 pound pack hundreds of feet over a chasm, you may not want to come. See for example This and This
  • Lahars, Earthquakes, and other Volcanic activity. Unlikely, but possible. The most likely of these is mudflows, which travel up to 45 mph and are scour valley bottoms with little or no warning [Bibl. 2, p. 343].
Trip Itinerary [Subject to change but only if absolutely necessary]
  • Day 1. Start @ Longmire, go up to Narada Falls, High Lakes Trail, Martha and Sylvia Falls, camp at Maple Creek Camp. 2400' gain, 12.3 miles.
  • Day 2. Continue to Indian Bar Camp. 3600' gain, 9.9 miles.
  • Day 3. Continue to panhandle gap. Conditions and route permitting, go up 500' or so to the knoll for a better view of Rainier. Continue past Summerland down to White River Camp. Min. 11 miles, 2200' gain. Possible 12 miles, 2700' gain.
  • Day 4. Continue to Sunrise (possible lunch there), Head east, side trip up Dege Peak [Bibl. 6, trip 31, pp.119-122], continue toward upper palisades lake, side trip to hidden lake [Bibl. 3, trip 68, pp.179-180], side trip to Sunrise lake [Bibl. 3, trip 66, pp.172-3], set up camp at Upper Palisades Lk, then head up to Brown Peak (and possibly beyond) [Bibl. 6, Trip 23, p. 102, Extending your trip], and [Bibl. 0, Trip 38, pp.159-162]. 4200' gain, 12.2 miles. [Possibly less if poor weather].
  • Day 5. Return to Sunrise, pick up the cache and possibly have lunch there (depending on timing), camp at Granite Creek Camp. Side trips include freemont lookout [Bibl. 6, trip 25, pp.105-107], burroughs mountain [Bibl.6, trip 28, pp.112-115], and skyscraper mountain [Bibl.6, trip 27, pp.109,111]. 3400' gain, 15.8 miles. [Possibly less if poor weather].
  • Day 6. Continue to Cataract Camp. Only 3400' gain, 10.4 miles.
  • Day 7. Continue to South Mowich Camp. Side trips include spray falls and Mowich Lake [Bibl. 6, trip 3, pp.47-49], and possibly the saddle between Hessong and Pleasant [decent but steep boot path not on maps or books I could find]. 2100' gain, 11.1 miles.
  • Day 8. Continue to Klapatche Park Camp. Side trip includes the abandoned jeep track to the knoll [Bibl. 4, p. 196]. 4700' gain, 14.5 miles.
  • Day 9. Continue to Devil's Dream Camp. Side trips include Mirror Lakes and possibly beyond[Bibl.8, trip 6, pp.34-35], the Devil's pipe organ [Bibl.1., p.111], and possibly St. Andrews Park explorations [Bibl.4, p.195]. 3775' gain, 12.1 miles.
  • Day 10. Continue to Longmire, with a rather significant and hopefully spectacular side trip to Mildred Point if the weather cooperates [Bibl.3. trip 14, pp.41-43]. 12 miles, 2600' gain.
My Goals

When I backpack, I like to enjoy the flowers and waterfalls, explore, and drink deeply in my soul from the peace and beauty that surrounds me. Gazing in awe at the majestic mountain, learning from and enjoying the richness and splendour of wildness is important to me. Good trail companionship is great too, but that's not why I go. That said, this is a group activity -- if you want to do the trail alone, this may not be the trip for you. As a group, we should take advantage of the light hours and not dally in camp too long. Bibl.1, p. 55 has some excellent commentary on whom to hike with:
Put a lot of thought into the selection of whom you pick to hike with. The rigors of this trail bring out both the best and worst in people. The ideal party would be friends of equal ability, temperment, and interests.
Application Process
  1. Let me know you're interested and qualified. Include a statement about your goals and hiking style.
  2. Send me specific information about what trips you have done (when and where and how long) which give you the experience necessary for success on this trip.
  3. If you haven't personally hiked on a very strenuous trip with me before, we'll need to do a very strenuous trip together so I can assess your hiking style and fitness, you can ask questions about the Wonderland trip, and we can get to know each other. You've got to be fit, experienced, and equipped enough to have fun on the trip instead of it being a deathmarch.
  4. You must be a full Mountaineers club member to come with. If you're not, then you can still come with if you join.
  5. If you want to do part of the trail but not the whole thing, feel free to contact me -- but preference will be given to those who want to do the whole trail.
  6. Please send me information on what sleeping bag / tent / stove / etc you have and are considering bringing with.
  7. Expect further inquiries as the need arises, and a face to face meeting over dinner or coffee prior to the trip, with everyone else who is going, to finalize plans for the trip and get additional questions people have answered.
  8. How can you know if you are on the trip: I will tell you, and you are not on the trip until I have placed you officially on the club roster for this event.
Financial Commitment

Tripgoers may incur the following costs:
  • Reimburse the carpool driver at current club rate
  • Reimburse their share of the National Park entrance fee
  • Reimburse their share of the permit application fee ($20)
  • Pay for postage to send the food cache ahead
  • Buy appropriate food cache container(s) (if necessary) in advance
Some of these expenses may be mitigated depending on circumstances, including: Someone may have a park pass, we may be able to drop the cache off on the way, and we may not need to buy many cache containers. We really can't afford last minute cancellations with this trip -- it's not fair to others who wanted to come. Pack Weight

In 1897 a party of Portland Mazamas arrived at the Mountain with 2 beef steers, 7 milk cows, 45 tents and 4 tons of supplies. You can do the trail with considerably less.
Filley, Bette Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail, p.59
If your pack, with food and water, weighs significantly over 45 pounds on my scale, we'll dig through it and leave things at the trailhead. Don't forget the essentials, but don't bring heavy gear either. Caching

The plan is to leave/mail extra supplies to Sunrise Ranger Station since this is a longer trip and the option is available to do so. If we do leave supplies, you'll need a Photo ID to pick them up unless they are left under my name. Park Regulations

Mt. Rainier National Park is truly a treasure. The National Park Service has adopted resonable regulations and guidelines to help keep it that way. Potential tripgoers should read these. A copy can be found at http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-guidelines-and-regulations.htm Bibliography
  • 0. Fagin, Michael, and Card, Skip Rain Shadow Hikes (Mountaineers Books, 1st. ed. 2003) trip 38
  • 1. Filley, Bette Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail(Dunamis House, 8th printing revised Sept 2006)
  • 2. Filley, Bette The Fact Book About Mount Rainier (Dunamis House, 1st. ed. 1996)
  • 3. Hodge, Paul Mt. Rainier Trails, (Sound & Mountains Publishing, 1st. ed. 2006)
  • 4. Lorain, Douglas Backpacking Washington, (Wilderness Press, 2nd. ed. 2007) trip 19
  • 5. Nelson, Dan A. Best Loop Hikes Washington, (Mountaineers Books, 1st. ed. 3rd. printing 2005) trips 74, 75, 76, 77
  • 6. Nelson, Dan A. Day Hiking Mount Rainier, (Mountaineers Books, 1st. ed. 2008)
  • 7. Schneider, Heidi, and Skjelset, Mary Hiking Mount Rainier National Park: A guide to Mount Rainier's Greatest Hiking Adventures, (Falcon Press, 2nd. ed. 2005) trip 61
  • 8. Spring, Ira, and Manning, Harvey 50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, (Mountaineers Books, 4th. ed. 6th printing 2006), trip 1
  • 9. Spring, Ira, and Manning, Harvey 100 Classic Hikes in Washington, (The Mountaineers, 1st. ed. 1998), trip 63
  • 10. Woodmansee, Mike Trekking Washington, (Mountaineers Books, 1st. ed. 2003), trek 17
You will need to bring your own topographic map with, one with the Wonderland Trail also shown. There are several good options:
  • Earthwalk Press. Hiking Map & Guide - Mt. Rainier National Park (Waterproof)
  • National Geographic Society. Mount Rainier National Park (Waterproof, somewhat less topographic resolution)
  • Green Trails 269 Mt Rainier West, and 270 Mt Rainier East (Not waterproof, somewhat less detail, lightweight)
  • Stanley Maps. Mt. Rainier National Park Centennial Edition (Waterproof, a bit large but great detail)

Wonderland Trail

  • Green Trails Mt Rainier West No. 269

    Trails Illustrated Mount Rainier National Park

    Green Trails Mt Rainier East No. 270

    Green Trails Mount Rainier Wonderland No. 269SX
  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials
Trip Reports