Wonderland Trail | WA, USA | 2003 & 2014

Note: Click here for a slideshow from my 2014 hike of the Wonderland Trail.

Distance:  93 miles (150 km)i_6

Avg.Time:  7 days

Start / Finish:  Longmire


  • July to early October. I recommend doing the hike around mid-September in order to avoid the crowds.

Maps / Info :

  • Logistics: See the US National Parks Website for details on permits, trail conditions, trail access and a basic downloadable map of the hike.
  • Navigation: I used the following two topographical maps published by Green Trail Maps: Mt. Rainier West # 269 ; Mt Rainer East #270. These are widely available in Seattle camping stores. To purchase online, see their website: www.greentrailsmaps.com

Route / Conditions :

  • The Wonderland Trail involves a complete circumnavigation of Mt. Rainier. It is well marked and easy to follow the entire way.
  • Whilst navigation is not an issue, the Wonderland Trail is far from an easy hike. With over 20,000 feet (6,096m) of altitude gain, there aren’t a lot of flat sections along the way. Keeping your pack weight to a minimum will definitely help your cause (see Going Light).
  • Scenery-wise the Wonderland Trail is up their with the best. Waterfalls, lakes, towering forests, and of course, the multi-glaciered (some 25 in total) Mt. Rainier itself.

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  • Equally impressive is the diversity of flora and fauna (see www.nps.gov/mora/naturescience/index.htm). Due to the dramatic daily gains and losses in elevation, the hiker is constantly moving back and forward between ecosystems. A personal highlight was the sublime alpine meadow of Spray Park.


  • Bring a tarp or tent.
  • There are a couple of wooden shelters at Indian Bar and South Mowich. The latter was a sight for sore eyes after hiking much of the day in rain or snow during my 2014 hike.

Overview :

  • All-in-all the Wonderland Trail is a classic. One of the things I remember most about this hike, was that it represented my introduction to the world of ultra-lightweight backpacking:

“………….in September, 2003, my backpacking world was turned on its head when during a hike on the Wonderland Trail, I encountered a gentleman by the name of Jim, who hailed from Beaverton, Oregon. In addition to being an all-around good bloke, Jim was the first ultralight backpacker I had ever met. You name it, his pack, shelter, sleeping bag and everything else he was carrying was not only lighter, but considerably lighter than the equivalents that I was carrying. How much lighter you ask? Probably 60%. Amazing! At first I thought that Jim was some sort of minimalist nutter straight off the commune, but after chatting for a while and thoroughly inspecting all of his gear, I became an instant convert.”

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