Mount Rainier National Park
|Wildflowers bloom near Paradise.|
If you're adventurous, have the time, and are looking for a good way to get to know Mt. Rainier, the 93-mile Wonderland Trail that circles the mountain may be your best option. The journey takes you through lowland forests and subalpine meadows, by swift running rivers and ancient glaciers. On average it takes 10 to 14 days to hike the loop, and permits are required for overnight camping.
To lighten your load and perhaps speed your hike on the Wonderland, the park has a few locations where food can be stored in advance. Although thousands hike the Wonderland Trail each summer, it rarely feels overcrowded once you get away from the vehicle-accessible areas.
The Trail: The Wonderland Trail traverses many ridges and valleys that radiate from Mount Rainier. Daily elevation gains and losses of over 3,500 feet are common, so be prepared.
Complete trail descriptions and maps, are available for purchase at the park's Visitor Centers or by mail order from the Northwest Interpretive Association.
Wilderness Permits: To help disperse and monitor visitor use, wilderness permits are required for backcountry travel year-round. Eighteen trailside camps, three to seven miles apart, are located along the Wonderland Trail. Each camp has one to eight sites for one to five campers. Group sites are available at certain camps for parties of six to twelve persons. Each camp has cleared tent sites, a pit toilet, and a nearby water source.
Cross-country camping allows backpackers to find their own place to camp, using minimum impact camping techniques. Make all camps at least 0.25 mile from trails or roads and at least 100 feet from any water source. Party size is limited to five people.
Storing Food: Food and supplies can be stored at various spots along the Wonderland Trail to reduce the weight of your pack, and increase the ease of your outdoor adventure. Remember to contact the park rangers where your food is stored prior to your arrival to make sure someone will be available to unlock your supplies.
Longmire and Sunrise are near the Wonderland Trail for easy cache pickup. The Ohanapecosh and White River Ranger Stations are not along the Wonderland Trail and a side trip is required to reach a cache at these locations. Contact one of the park's Visitor Centers for updated information and instructions.
Hungry for more information on the Wonderland Trail? Check out Karen Berger's trail description of this popular loop.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication