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Backpack the Wonderland Trail

Ashford, Washington

based on 5 reviews



90 miles

Elevation Gain

22000 ft

Route Type



Added by Dan Ransom

The Wonderland Trail is a 93 mile loop circumnavigating the namesake of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. This classic trail is complete with huge views in every ecosystem from rain forest, to alpine tundra, and glaciers. There are few trails in the United States that combine a trail of this length, variety, and beauty into a single one-week adventure.

Possibly one of the greatest loop hikes in the Lower 48, this trail sees a lot of use. You won't be alone out there, but opportunities for solitude are abundant with a little effort. The crowds show up for good reason - it's incredibly beautiful, relatively wild, and about as close to feeling like "real" Alaskan wilderness as you can get without a 3000 mile trip up north.

The trail makes one continuous loop, so there are dozens of variations on where to start, how many days, and which direction you move. About the only thing you don't have control of is where to camp - campsites are assigned by the NPS, so every trip has to start with a trip to the Backcountry Office to line up permits and secure your campsites. 70 percent of permits are reserved in advance, while 30 percent are reserved for first-come, first-served walk-ups. If this is a trip you want to do, plan early and have your details ready before March, so you can apply for a reservation online at http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-permit.htm.

This is a long hike with a lot of elevation gain and loss (over 20,000). So be well aware of your own personal skills and fitness level. Mapping out preassigned campsites is key, so understanding your own abilities and comfort level is prerequisite to getting a permit.

Over the course of 93 miles, you will completely circumnavigate the peak, while passing through a variety of ecosystems - rainforest, subalpine meadows, glaciers, and alpine ridges with unbelievable views. Ideal season is summer and fall, and once the snowpack has receded, you can optionally cross Spray Park instead of the traditional route via Ipsut Pass.

Small campsites are generally every 4-8 miles apart, and most have multiple tent pads to accommodate groups of up to 5 people or 2 tents. Larger group sites are available if you have more than 2 tents, but your options are more limited.

Every site has a composting toilet. Use it! These are highly impacted areas, and the park has done a great job managing infrastructure to handle the impact as conservatively as possible. Bear poles are also available for hanging food, and should always be used.

You get more details on the nps.gov site.

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Backpack the Wonderland Trail Reviews


This is in the bucketlist of most backpackers in USA. Amazing trail and landscape. Needs a bit of planning due to high demand of permit but the trail, for the permit system, feels not-crowded and pristine. You can also do it fast - like in 3-4 days if you dont have the time and physically/mentally fit enough. Here is a story I wrote how to do that: https://www.theoutbound.com/arnab-banerjee/wonderland-trail-in-3-days

This was one of the best backpacking trips I have been on and will be an experience that I will never forget. Me and a friend of mine started this trip early August at the Longmire trailhead going in a clockwise direction with our first campsite being only a short five miles away at Devils Dream. This location is well known for being very mosquito heavy so be prepared if you plan to spend any amount of time at this site. In anticipation I brought along my bug net and a long sleeve shirt which were not needed thanks to the Thermacell that my buddy brought along. As we continued on with our trek we stopped at Klapatche Park, Golden Lakes, Mowich, Dick Creek, Sunrise, Summerland, Indian Bar and Maple Creek. Everyone one of these backcountry camps were clean with plenty of space between sites but if you plan on staying at Mowich be prepared for neighbors as it is a popular spot for day hikers. Sunrise is a great location for one simple reason, real food! If you don't mind a short mile and a half trek you can get yourself a bite to eat and a cold drink (or two) at the restaurant located on top of the hill. This is also a good opportunity to check out the weather report and ask any questions you may have at the WIC nearby. If at all possible try to secure a campsite at Summerland. This was by far my favorite spot on the trail and the most beautiful. Depending on the time of year, this area offers tons of wildflowers as well as awesome sunsets and sunrises. Also recommended is Indian Bar which is nestled in the bottom of a beautiful canyon just a short distance away from the very picture worthy Panhandle Gap. If you wish to take on this trail keep in mind that it is permit only and the chances of getting your desired itinerary are fairly low. Put your name in for the lottery as soon as possible or if time and distance isn't an issue shoot for a walk up permit at one of the WICs and hope for the best. This is certainly a bucket list item and if you get the chance to take on this trail in its entirety don't pass it up.

One of, if not the, best backpacking trips I've ever done. Plenty of elevation gain/loss throughout the days which makes for a challenging journey. Alpine lakes, old growth forest, snow fields, bears, deer, huckleberries, views, rivers, glaciers, the list goes on. Competitive permit process so get your application in around March. Cannot stress enough how worth it this trail is.

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