The Mountain Encircled


Trail sign near Klapatche Park

A feast for your senses! Cascading waterfalls, swinging suspension bridges, verdant old-growth forests, wildflower meadow profusions, torrent river crossings, furry fat marmots and bands of mountain goats await on a trail that was billed by Former Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Roger Toll as a “veritable wonderland of beauty and grandeur.”

Every summer, hundreds of people flock to Mount Rainier National Park to backpack the Wonderland Trail – a 93-mile footpath that circumnavigates the base of the 14,410 foot glaciated volcano. Constructed in 1915 as a way for park rangers to more easily gain access to the backcountry to protect our precious public lands from illegal activities, the Wonderland Tail now serves as an extremely popular recreation destination. In 2010, Backpacker Magazine listed it as one of their top 20 “Best. Hikes. Ever”.

However, the Wonderland Trail is not just a simple walk in the park. The trail has been described by many hikers as a roller coaster or the “edge of an immense pie crust”. It has backpackers huffing and puffing as they struggle to the top of one ridge, only to climb back down to the deep valley floor and then back up again to another ridge top. This is process is repeated over and over again.… and again, day after day for 93 miles. Ascending and descending a few thousand feet a day will easily (and maybe even begrudgingly) become the norm. Flat spots are few and far between and are fairly short! When all is said and done, one will have ended up gaining and losing over 22,000 feet of elevation and will have done enough ascending enough ridges to have climbed her majesty 2-1/2 times!

What hardships you endure – creaky knees, sore calves, and achy shoulders, the jaw-dropping scenery by far makes up for it! Around each twist and turn, at the top of every ridge and at the bottom of every river valley there is something magnificent to behold: stunning alpine sunsets, immense glaciers, wild blue and huckleberries galore, gorgeous reflecting lakes and breathtaking 360-degree views of the majestic mountain herself. It will be easy to forget the difficulties and tantrums of the trail.

“Every hour it opens to the fortunate visitor vistas and distant views, intimate glimpses of growing things, and sketches of wild animal life that to anyone mean hours in Wonderland…[a] Wonderland of forest and snow, wildflower, field and mighty cascade.”  – Floyd Schmoe, Park Naturalist 1920

The Wonderland Trail may not be an easy feet of accomplishment, but damn, the “veritable wonderland” is worth every bit of hardship she might throw at you and will leave you begging for more.

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Wonderland Trail Profile –Source NPS

wonderland map

Map of the Wonderland Trail –Courtesy of NPS


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