Wonderland Trail - Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt Rainer & Nisqually Icefall from the summit of Pinnacle Peak

  • Rating: Difficult, strenuous - NOT FOR BEGINNERS!
  • Route: Drive from Olympia to Longmire Ranger Station. About two hours.
  • Gear: In addition to 10 essentials and overnight camping gear the following items are required
  • Teva sandals or other suitable footwear for fording rivers
  • Ice axe
  • Carpool: Rendezvous at 7:30 AM.  We will carpool from the Olympia Food Coop to Longmire. We leave on time and do not wait. Please bring $15 per person to reimburse drivers and a few dollars to reimburse Event Host for backcountry permit. $15 Entrance fee for each car.
  • Links: The Wonderland Trail http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/the-wonderland-trail.htm

• Disclaimer: We will be in the wilderness. Serious injury or death can occur. We are not professional guides nor do we claim to be experts.  It is not our responsibility to get you to the listed destination.  We hike at our own pace.  By attending this hike you are assuming responsibility for your own personal safety and we will not be held responsible.

Trek Description

Arguably one of the "top fifty" hikes on the planet the Wonderland Trail (WT) is 93 miles long and encircles Mount Rainier. The trail is a loop, as such, we will start and finish at Longmire Ranger Station. It is a strenuous and relentless hike with 33,000' of elevation gain and loss, through lowland forests and valleys and into high alpine and sub-alpine zones. It may be one of the best maintained trails in the world. There are many sections that could accommodate a motorized wheelchair, switchbacks are plentiful, and mud is a rare sight on the WT. Nevertheless, the trail also climbs through high alpine terrain around Spray Park and Panhandle Gap (6700') where icy snow slopes linger into late season and an ice axe is essential for safe passage. Occasionally, a bridge, over a minor tributary, is out and hikers must be prepared for an unanticipated ford.

 

This trek is NOT RECOMMENDED for the beginning hiker. Please don't sign-up for this trip if you have no experience with overnight backpacking. Presumably, participants will have previous experience in multi-day backpacking excursions and know how to look after themselves in the backcountry (cooking, hygiene, map & compass, etc.). The first three days of this itinerary are the toughest. If you can make it to Mowich Lake you will probably complete the trek. Pack light! Keep your total pack weight less than 20% of your body weight. See my notes on packing light in the "Discussion" section of this website.

 

I hiked the Wonderland Trail, for the first time (young and stupid), in six days and it practically killed me! Make no mistake, well-groomed trail notwithstanding, this is a rugged and strenuous undertaking over ten days. I've completed this route three additional times with a ten day schedule and it has been a tough workout each time! You need to be in top shape to complete this route. It's not just 93 miles. You have to consider the relentless punishment of 33,000 feet. That's over 3000' everyday! Use the summer to get prepared.

 

In any season the WT hiker needs to be prepared for any kind of weather from blistering sun to blizzards! Snow flurries, whiteouts and freezing overnight temperatures are all common in September. This hike will average about ten miles a day but in reality that means there will be some twelve-mile days and some six-mile days. There are no ZERO days which means participants must be prepared to trek in any and all weather conditions and need to be in excellent condition to sustain ten consecutive days of athletic backpacking.

 

Hikers can choose to carry all their supplies for the entire trip or take advantage of two food caches (recommended) at Mowich Lake and White River Campground. Using the food caches allows the hiker to carry only about three days of food at a time. Check the enclosed link to Mt. Rainier Park for IMPORTANT information about using the food cache system.

 

Participants on this trip can mail their food cache(s) to the Park or have the additional option of paying the Event Host a nominal fee ($10 each person) to hand deliver your two caches in the days before our hike. Since inclement weather should be expected for any ten-day backpack this trek will only be canceled in case of expected severe weather or large (over 12") early season snowfall.

 

Participants will be required to sign a liability waiver. I've reserved the group site at each camping location. We do not allow guests on our hikes - you must be a member to join us.

 

Itinerary: (CONFIRMED 4/17/13)

  • DAY01 - 11.8m/Longmire - Puyallup River (4000') 9/13
  • DAY02 - 12m/Puyallup River - Golden Lakes (5130') 9/14
  • DAY03 - 10.2m/Golden Lakes - Mowich Lake (4929') 9/15
  • DAY04 -  6.5m/Mowich Lake - Cataract Valley (4700') 9/16
  • DAY05 -  6.5m/Cataract Valley - Mystic Lake (5620') 9/17
  • DAY06 -  8.1m/Mystic Lake - Sunrise (6300') 9/18
  • DAY07 -  9.3m/ Sunrise - Summerland (5940') 9/19
  • DAY08 - 11m/Summerland - Nickel Creek (3350') 9/20
  • DAY09 - 10.4m/Nickel Creek - Paradise River (3950') 9/21
  • DAY10 - 3.5m/Paradise River  - Longmire 9/22

  • * Resupply day

What you can expect

• Bears, bugs, rodents

• Snow, rain, wind, freezing temperatures

• Bear protection for food at all campsites

• Spectacular scenery, well-maintained trail

• Food caches

• Not to many people after Labor day

• No Campfires

• Strenuous days with lots of elevation gain/loss

• A memorable adventure!

 

Join or login to comment.

  • Jon E

    Good adventure overall. We had some hot sunny days, some cold rainy days, some snow, and many spectacular vistas. We started with seven participants and finished with four. We had some laughs and some heartaches. Thanks to all of you for your positive attitudes and participation. Happy trails!

    1 · September 24, 2013

  • Lynn H.

    Hey all you Wonderlanders -- Wondering if any of you Olympia folk or those further afield might want to gather up for a potluck supper and photo sharing - I'm thinking about this Sunday the 29th. I can offer up my house on the westside. If that date doesn't work, how about the 12th or 13th of October? Not sure how to extract everybody's email from the website, so if somebody has them all, maybe you could forward this along. Such a wondrous hike and place, I feel lucky to have shared it with you all.
    Lynn

    September 23, 2013

  • Cyrus B.

    This trekking on the WONDER-Land trail ended up being a sum of almost everything WONDER-ful; WONDER-participants, WONDER-organizer, WONDER-scenery, WONDER-time, WONDER-camaraderie, WONDER-memories, WONDER-experience,...the list goes on till the limited characters to comment are exhausted and beyond.

    September 22, 2013

  • Robert

    Excellent!!!! Epic. Exceeded all expectations. Welcome back everybody.

    September 22, 2013

  • Jon E

    ...and then there were seven. Welcome everybody! I've checked-in with all of you and collected most of the food caches and will hand deliver them on Thursday. Weather forecast is looking good enough and we have a great group! It should be a good adventure. Since participants are coming from all over we will rendezvous on Friday, September 13th, at 9:30 AM on the front steps of the National Park Inn at Longmire - just six miles East of the Nisqually Entrance to Mt Rainier National Park. The trailhead is just across the street from the Inn.

    We won't wait past 10:00 AM so if you are late you'll have to catch us on the trail. We are camping our first night at South Puyallup River. Everyone should carry a map even if it's the free map you get at the Entrance Station. There is plenty of free parking at Longmire where you can leave your vehicle for the entire trek but the parking is NOT directly in front of the Inn! The long-term parking area is just a couple hundred feet away.

    September 10, 2013

  • Cyrus B.

    Joane, I'm leaving from the north (Seattle area), however, I'll be leaving Thursday morning to join Jon and to assist him distribute the caches, and will stay there the night.
    I would gladly take along your buckets (as I do Casey's), if that's what you would like me to do, and if you could deliver them to my office in Bellevue by Wednesday 2:00 PM.

    September 10, 2013

  • Robert

    Can I carpool Friday morning with some Olympians? I live on the East Side near SF bakery

    September 8, 2013

  • Jon E

    Leah, Greg, Sara - Are you still attending?

    September 6, 2013

    • Greg

      Yes, I am still going. Sorry did not realize you expected replies from all the info you have been posting. I am totally self contained. Will be doing my food cache probably tomorrow. I will be coming from Yakima so will meet you all at Longmire. I also do the tarp thing, MSR Twin Peaks.

      September 6, 2013

  • Jon E

    FUEL - If you are mailing your food drop you must carry all your fuel because it cannot be shipped. For those using the hand-deliver method you may store your fuel inside your bucket. If you are using white gas or alcohol you must exercise great caution. Don't overfill the container and make sure the gasket is new and working properly. OR, label your fuel exactly like your bucket and keep it separate. I use canister fuel (iso-butane) which is very safe for storage in the food bucket.

    September 4, 2013

  • Jon E

    I'm negotiating a way to offer King Co.(and other) participants access to the hand delivery service for your food caches. You would have to deliver your caches to a location in Bellevue by the Monday, 9/9/13 deadline and it would cost $20 per person. Please indicate here if you are interested in this. Besides saving you money in shipping costs you could place fuel in each cache which is NOT AN OPTION if you mail your cache. Please respond ASAP so I can set this up.

    1 · September 3, 2013

    • casey

      I am interested and would like to get info. such as address,etc. Thanks J

      September 4, 2013

    • Jon E

      will be forthcoming.

      September 4, 2013

  • casey

    I live in west seattle wa and love to carpool. Is anyone going to deliver food cache to Jon from seattle? My email is [masked]

    September 3, 2013

  • Jon E

    I hope everyone attending has received my extensive email by now. Any questions can be posted here or sent to me directly. NPS reports that an ice axe is NOT REQUIRED on the North side of Panhandle Gap so you can remove this item from your gear. Most of the group attending is now outside the Olympia area so King Co participants may want to organize their own carpools. I would like the entire party to gather at 9:30 AM on the front porch of the National Park Inn at Longmire. I expect to be on the trail no later than 10 AM as we have a full day of hiking. Anyone outside the Olympia area who is planning to carpool with us from Olympia should let me know. Otherwise, I presume you will figure out your own transportation to Longmire, MRNP. The late August and early September precipitation is an auspicious sign for us. It's likely we'll see some pattern change to dryer weather in time for our trek.

    September 2, 2013

    • Jon E

      My apologies Casey. Anyone who has NOT received my email needs to send me a message directly at [masked]

      September 2, 2013

    • Jon E

      Make sure my address is accepted by your service provider so my email doesn't end up in your SPAM folder. It's IMPORTANT that you get the information I sent out.

      September 2, 2013

  • Gabriel

    Just completed the trail ...and it was tough; 4 days of rain and a 62 lb pack (i'm an idiot) made the longmire to sunrise portion seem like a torture session :(. The weather cleared, i dumped 30+ lbs of camera gear, solar panels, excess food, etc. at sunrise, and the last 3 days (sunrise to longmire) were absolutley wonderful! I was planning on doing it again with you guys, but, I underestimated the difficulty level of this hike, and I'm quite certain that my body (and mind) will require some extra time to recuperate from this challenging and rewarding experience . Hope you guys have a great time!

    1 · September 2, 2013

    • Jon E

      Congratulations! Thanks for your comments. I hope others read this and don't make the same mistake. The takeaway is don't underestimate the difficulty of this hike and pack light! Your pack weight has a HUGE impact on your experience of the WT. "Absolutely wonderful" OR "torture session" - the choice is yours.

      September 2, 2013

  • Cyrus B.

    You certainly have been, Anna. Thank you for your good words!

    September 1, 2013

  • Anna W.

    Glad to have been the catalyst for such happiness!

    August 31, 2013

  • Cyrus B.

    I'm in; BINGO!!

    August 31, 2013

  • Anna W.

    After much deliberation and unfortunate change of events I am backing out of this trek. I know you all will have the time of your lives up there! Thank you Jon for being such a great organizer. I'll be up there next year!

    August 31, 2013

  • Jon E

    I am sending out a long information email to the twelve guests presently signed up. This email is NOT going to those on the waiting list. If you need to bail on this trek, do it this week before we start planning tent and cooking groups. Beyond that, cancellations are frowned upon and unwelcome. Participants can post questions here or contact me directly.

    August 31, 2013

  • Jon E

    Omar and Sean have been removed since they never contacted me. Welcome Cyrus and Leah.

    1 · August 31, 2013

  • Greg

    Jon I just want to confirm that I will be there. Please reply here and with email. I want to make sure that my isp does not block your email

    August 27, 2013

    • Jon E

      Great! Welcome aboard.

      August 28, 2013

    • Robert

      Hi All, to confirm I willbe hiking the first six days with you on the WT

      August 28, 2013

  • Jon E

    Thanks to everyone who has checked-in. Omar? Sean? You are about to be removed from the RSVP list. Please contact me soon. Once the "actual" group is established I will be sending out a long email that I hope will answer most of the questions you may have about this trek. It will include information about recommended gear, food caches, etc. I will be encouraging participants to "team-up" in pairs or groups of three to share tents, food, and cooking. NO ONE will be REQUIRED to pair-up if you prefer to do your own thing. If there is interest, South Sound participants may want to have a get-together in the next week so folks can "group-up" for cooking and sharing tents.

    More information to come. Stay tuned!

    August 28, 2013

  • T.-

    Thank you, Jon, for being patient with my rsvp. I have lost my dog sitter for that time and am scrambling to find a replacement. I am still planning on going but need to nail down arrangements for my pooch. I will confirm by/before the 31st in order to give a waitlister some time to plan as well.

    August 27, 2013

    • Jon E

      Thanks for checking in. I hope you can find a dog-sitter and join us.

      August 28, 2013

  • Wolfgang G.

    I pulled off the Wait list, work is not going to let this happen. :(

    August 27, 2013

    • Jon E

      Happy trails!

      August 28, 2013

  • Wolfgang G.

    Jon E, if you feel this is not OK please delete this post, but I though that some on the wait list might want to sign up here too. This is in Pacific Northwest Hiking & Backpacking Group.
    www.meetup.com/hiking-233

    The Thread is "Brand New Member to PNHBG. Interesed in doing the Whole Wonderland Trail?"
    http://www.meetup.com/hiking-233/events/135728392/

    "I made reservations for my daughter and I to hike the Wonderland Trail from Sept 16-28, 12 days, so it is a comparatively leisurely pace. However, life has intervened and she cannot make it so I am looking for someone to fill the vacant slot. I just heard about this group and several people suggested it might be a good place to find another backpacker to go for the trip. " there is more on the link and he is going to post the Itinerary too. It is a longer trip, 12 days vs 10 days, that maybe better or worse depending on your point of view and what the weather does. :)

    August 21, 2013

  • Gabriel

    I am hiking the wonderland trail next week, and i was going to do it again with you guys, but i am thinking that i should open up a spot for someone on the wait list. If anyone is interested, i have space for one additional tent ( up to 3 people) during a 10 day, 24aug-03sep, wonderland trail trip; my apologies for the late notice :(

    August 21, 2013

    • Jon E

      Have a great trek! You are more then welcome to hike again with our group. I suspect we will ultimately have space for everyone who "really" wants to, and can go. Now that you've "checked-in" all is well from my point of view. Thanks for responding. So there is no pressure from me for your to cancel just because you are a glutton for punishment and want to traverse the WT twice in the space of one month!

      August 21, 2013

  • Jon E

    Thanks to those that have already "checked-in". I still have not heard anything from:
    • Patricia
    • Omar
    • Sean
    • Gabriel
    • T

    All of you are in danger of being manually removed from the RSVP list if you don't check in by the end of August. We need to nail this group down so participants have time to connect with each other to share tents, cooking, etc. In addition, there are several on the waiting list who need to know if they can join the group or not. Participants who are mailing their food caches to the Park need to get those packages in the mail the first week of September! This trek is unlike a typical day hike in so many ways. I cannot afford to wait until the eleventh hour for participants to decide if they are attending. You have about ten more days to decide. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

    August 21, 2013

    • Patricia J.

      Jon, It was a tough decision, but I will not be coming on this trip...good news for the next person in line. I hope you all have a wonderful time in Wonderland. Patricia

      August 21, 2013

    • Jon E

      Thanks for responding. I'm sorry you can't make it. I know of 2 other WT hikes coming up. Gabriel just posted he has room for others on his trek leaving 8/24 and another person contacted me last night looking for guests on a 12 day trek beginning Sept. 16th

      August 21, 2013

  • Robert

    Hi Jon, did u see that I sent an email to u via meetup? I was hoping to talk on the phone with u and sent my phone number. I have some questions about gear, fitness, and scheduling. Thx, Robert

    August 9, 2013

    • Jon E

      Sigh..... My apologies. I prefer to communicate via email. Please send your questions to me directly at [masked]. Cheers

      August 11, 2013

    • Jon E

      Robert - Did you get my email? I responded to your questions the same day you wrote me.

      August 21, 2013

  • Jon E

    I sent out a group message over a week ago and I only received one response. So I'm not sure everyone got the memo. I'm asking folks that signed up for this trek (months ago) to please reconfirm by responding here or sending me an email. I'm giving you until 8/31 to respond. No response and on 9/1 you may get your name manually removed so others on the waiting list will have a couple of weeks to prepare. I'd like to have the group confirmed by September First. Last-minute cancellations (typical for day hikes) are unwelcome and unacceptable. Please get your "house" in order by the end of the month. Presumably, you already made plans to take time off work before you signed up so that's not a legitimate excuse for a late cancellation in my way of thinking. Also, you should expect some inclement weather on a 10-day trek. As I've already indicated, this trip will NOT be canceled if it looks like we may have some rain as long as it's not everyday!

    Thank you all!

    August 10, 2013

    • Jon E

      Thanks for responding Anna. Kelly, I was primarily wanting to hear from those already holding spots so that we can open up a place for you if one is available. So I haven't sent any message to folks on the waiting list.

      August 15, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Yeah, I figured that.

      August 15, 2013

  • Wolfgang G.

    Jon, I too have not received any emails, but I am on the waiting list, so don't know it they got it sent to them. I am going to wait until the first to make official plans. Work should not be an issue as I am the boss. I hope I am able to do this! It has been on my plans for a few years now.

    August 10, 2013

    • Jon E

      No message was sent to people on the waiting list. I'm just trying to check-in with people who may have signed up for this trip in April and may have forgotten by now.

      August 15, 2013

  • Jon E

    Itinerary is confirmed with NPS. Unless I die or get a job (unlikely) I'm still planning to Host this trip. Even if I am forced to withdraw I think Mac would step up as Event Host although I haven't talked to him about it. The only reason I would cancel this trip is if the forecast calls for almost constant rain and snow for the duration which is unlikely in September - one of the driest months in the Puget Sound. My last multi-day hike posted on this site started with 12 and a long waiting list. By the time we went we had three hikers attend. So I will be surprised if the actual group is this large. Nevertheless, I do have the group campsite reserved at every camp. Robert, I'm glad you are looking forward to it. IMHO it is one of the premier hikes on the planet and it's right in our backyard. I'm surprised that no other NW hiking Meetups post this hike in its entirety.

    2 · July 6, 2013

    • Wolfgang G.

      Jon, do you know what carrier he had? I think it makes a difference. Also, I have been trying to do this for the last few years and I hope it works out that I can go!

      July 25, 2013

    • Jon E

      Sorry, no idea. It was a decade ago (when last I did the WT) so I'm not sure it's relevant.

      July 30, 2013

  • Mac

    I could never fill your shoes Jon, but would that mean that I'd get your ice axe collection too?

    July 8, 2013

  • Robert

    Hi Everyone, I'm so excited about this trip and want to confirm that its a definite go? Thanks, Robert

    July 6, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I have to cancel this. But I REALLY wanted to go.

    April 9, 2013

  • Jon E

    I've posted some thoughts on lightening your load in the discussion area.

    2 · March 15, 2013

  • Jon E

    Thanks for posting this article Doug and I'm thankful for your positive thoughts. I agree with everything said in the article. Here are the main points.
    • This is a strenuous route and you need to be in top shape
    • The first 3-days along the Westside will be the most difficult
    • Pack light!! This is by far the most common mistake among backpackers. Forget Colin Fletcher. Try to keep your full pack weight (w/food, water, fuel) no more than 15-20% of body weight. In my mind, 120 lb. women should carry no more than about 25 lbs. A 180 lb man no more than forty pounds!! My basic pack weight (without food, water,fuel) is 18 pounds including my ice axe. I expect my pack to be no more than 30 pounds total. Since I weigh in at 195 lbs - that's 15%. I can pretty much guarantee you won't have much fun packing a 40-55 lb load on the Wonderland.
    • If you're not sure how to get your pack weight lower then do some overnight hikes and experiment to discover what you can leave behind.

    4 · March 14, 2013

  • Doug

    I'm really looking forward to this! Here is an article in today's Seattle Times re; the WT
    http://seattletimes.com/html/outdoors/2020552321_wonderlandtrailxml.html?cmpid=2628

    2 · March 14, 2013

  • Patricia J.

    Looking forward to it!

    March 11, 2013

  • Paula Jorgensen K.

    Like-minded! I have been planning the WT for Sept 2013 for the past year; I'm hoping to get a permit Starting Sept 8th! I've decided on a 14-day itinerary so I can explore side trails/hikes along the way. Hope I can catch some conditioning hikes beforehand with the group!

    February 28, 2013

  • Judy C.

    I wish I could go. This sounds fantastic and the trail is on my bucket list. Have a great time.

    February 22, 2013

  • Gail

    oops, forgot I can't go that week!

    February 22, 2013

  • Megan S.

    Totally contingent upon employment situation at the time, but otherwise YES!!!

    February 22, 2013

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