Secret Rainier | Wonders of Wonderland

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we hear from Mickey Eisenberg, Gene Yore, and Steve McClure on their top four recommendations near the Wonderland Trail.
Gene Yore Gene Yore
Climb Leader
August 31, 2019
Secret Rainier | Wonders of Wonderland
by Mickey Eisenberg, Gene Yore, and Steve McClure

This issue of Secret Rainier describes four wonders of the Wonderland (just off the main trail), each well worth a short detour to visit. The Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier is aptly named: the entire 96-mile trail is a feast to behold. Though the trail doesn’t fully open up until July and become snow free until late July, now is a good time to plan a trip and make reservations via the Mount Rainier National Park web site.

Sunset Park

There used to be a lookout in Sunset Park, located just south of Golden Lakes. The trail to it is difficult to find, but still passable, years after the removal of the lookout. It leads to the lookout sight and a ridge with spectacular views of Mt. Rainier.

Directions: The abandoned trail is depicted on older maps. From the ranger cabin at Golden Lakes travel south for several hundred yards looking for a path leading east. Continue first to the lookout site and then to the ridge with a return path hooking up with the Wonderland Trail.

SunsetParkLoopTrail.jpgMap courtesy of Gene Yore.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is a photographer’s dream and located only a short hike off the Wonderland Trail, in the Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground area of the Park.

Directions: The short half-mile spur trail to the lake is marked and located north of the rangers cabin at Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.

Mirror Lake.jpg

Andesite Columns

Massive andesite columns are located a mere hundred yards west of the South Puyallup campsite on the trail heading toward Round Pass. The hexagonal columns were formed when molten andesite cooled.

Directions: Just south of the bridge crossing the South Puyallup River is the campground. From the South Puyallup camp travel on the trail leading to Round Pass for approximately 150 yards and you can’t miss the massive columns.

Andesite columns.jpgAndesite columns. Photo by Mickey Eisenberg.

Spray Falls

One can easily get waterfall overland given how many are found in the park. But take our word for it, this is a spectacular one.

Directions: The falls may be viewed just off the Wonderland and located 1.8 miles south of Mowich Lake. A sign marks the short trail to the falls. Note there is some ambiguity about whether the Wonderland Trail passes through Spray Park or goes more northerly along Ipsut Creek. Both routes are fine but if you choose the Ipsut Creek option then Spray Falls takes more effort to view and is a 3.6 mile round trip detour from Mowich Lake.

Spray Falls.jpgSpray falls. Photo by Mickey Eisenberg.

More Peaks near the Wonderland Trail

In addition to the above wonders, it's possible to hike or scramble 17 peaks located very close to the Wonderland Trail. These are: Skyscraper, Burroughs (First, Second, and Third), Fremont, McNeeley, Antler, Dege, Mineral, Hessong, Pleasant, Bald Rock, Satulick, Ararat, Aurora, Copper, Iron.

Want to learn more? Mount Rainier National Park has over 100 climbable peaks (not counting Mount Rainier itself) either within or immediately adjacent to the Park boundary. While most are scrambles (and a few are climbs) there are 15 peaks that are reachable as hikes. Guide to 100 Peaks at Mount Rainier National Park is available as an enhanced iBook for the iPad on iTunes and in tablet eBook and smartphone eBook by Mountaineers Books. All royalties donated to The Mountaineers.

This article originally appeared in our spring 2017 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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