Thru-Hiker's Guide to America

Wonderland Trail Terrain
By E. Schlimmer

Excerpted from Thru Hiker's Guide to America by E. Schlimmer

So what is harder: going up the highest peak in Washington or going around it? Well, after the research I did, I would have to say around it, although neither option seems particularly easy. A thru-hike of the WT requires you to climb no less than 20,000 vertical feet over snowfields and scree slopes, through streams, and among shaded evergreen forests with a smooth tread often cut into the sides of hills.

The vegetation patterns on the WT divide into zones, as on most big hills in the Northwest. With a low point of less than 3,000 feet and a crest of nearly 7,000 feet, the Wonderland Trail first leads through old growth forests of hemlock, Pacific yew, and Douglas fir up to 250 feet in height. You'll see Alaska cedars that may be more than a thousand years old. As you climb, here come more softwoods, mostly spruce, fir, and pine. Finally you'll reach tree line around 5,500 feet, primarily hiking among tundra and rock, with some larger growth hiding in cracks and on the leeward side of rock and snow, to escape the wind.

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