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Trip Report    

Backcountry Trail Run: Wonderland Trail Frying Pan, Summerland, Panhandle Gap, Indian Bar & Box Canyon

We used a car shuttle to run from Frying Pan Creek to Box Canyon on an absolutely beautiful day.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The trail is in good condition the entire way.  All the blowdowns have been cleared, and we did not need to use GPS to navigate.  There are still a few sections of snow, but while we carried microspikes, we did not use them.  Be careful of melting out snow bridges and trail on snow near rocks. 

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    There is a herd of goats hanging around at Panhandle Gap, and they kicked rocks down on a hiker ahead of us. There was plenty of water on the route.  We carried a liter and filtered water frequently--at the Frying Pan Creek bridge, just past Summerland, skipped the tarns below Panhandle Gap, in the running streams below Panhandle Gap, at Indian Bar, and finally at Nickel Creek. 

The road from the Stevens Canyon Entrance to Chinook Pass has been recently repaved.  Work is scheduled to continue just through July 30.  When we entered at White River at 0700, there was no line at the gate. By 0715, there were very few spots left to park at Fryingpan Creek (on a Wednesday).  Parking might be the crux of the trip. There were plenty of spots at Box Canyon. 

Total distance was 17.1 miles with 4,600 feet of elevation gain.  We took our time, enjoying the tank top and shorts weather, flowers in full bloom, many marmots, a herd of goats with kids, and lots of water stops.  The bugs were bearable for us, as we were running, but they found us whenever we stopped, and many of the backpackers we ran into coming up from Indian Bar were wearing head nets.  The bugs did not seem as bad on the north side of Panhandle Gap and near Summerland.


The flowers were beautiful the entire way.  Plenty of monkey flower near flowing water, lots of lupine, paintbrush, and sitka valerian in the meadows, and we did find all six varieties of lousewort that grow in the park, including the endemic Rainer Lousewort (just above Ohanapecosh Park) and the elusive Elephant's Head Lousewort in one spot along the river just above Indian Bar.  

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We stopped for lunch at Wauhaukaupauken Falls near the Indian Bar CCC shelter where we enjoyed a cooling mist off the falls, and I filtered water while watching an American Dipper dance on river rocks.

The most runnable parts were Fryingpan Creek to Summerland and the last 4 miles from the Cowlitz Divide down to Box Canyon.  The descent through Ohanapecosh Park to Indian Bar was slow going with water bars across the trail the entire way.


If you are thinking of hiking, backpacking, or running this section of the Wonderland Trail, conditions are great right now!

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