The Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is a 93 mile trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier and lies entirely within Mt. Rainier National Park. Because it stays below snow level the entire way, it is unable to make a level traverse of Rainier’s slopes and must instead climb over Rainier’s many ridges, resulting in a total elevation gain of approximately 22,000 feet.

I’d originally planned to hike the Wonderland Trail as I passed by Mt. Rainier during my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. But by the time that I reached Chinook Pass (where I had planned to leave the PCT) I had been hiking in rain almost the entire time that I’d been in Washington and was getting pretty tired of it. Spending another five days hiking in the rain really wasn’t at the top of my ‘to do’ list. On top of that, my first resupply package for the Wonderland Trail had been delayed and I’d have to stall myself somehow so it could catch up. I decided to bail on my plans to hike the Wonderland Trail right then, keep cruising up the PCT, and come back to the Wonderland later that season if the weather improved. About a week after I finished the PCT the forecast showed clear skies for about a week. I threw my backpack together, left the stove at home, and headed up to Mt. Rainier.

I started from White River campground on September 27th, hiked clockwise, and finished on October 1st. The great thing about hiking the Wonderland this late in the season is that very few other people do. When I set my itinerary at the White River ranger station I was able to get every campsite I requested and then often had those campsites to myself. On the actual Wonderland I probably only saw 15-20 other hikers the entire 93 miles, an amazing experience given that the Wonderland is entirely within Mt. Rainier National Park.