Backpack the Wonderland Trail

Washington Paradise Ranger Station

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

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 site.

Pack List

  • Permits
  • Pack
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Tent
  • Stove
  • Water purifier
  • Food
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



90 Miles

Elev. Gain:

22000 Feet




Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

8 months ago

I don't know

lololololololol ol

8 months ago

Added by Dan Ransom

Backpacker | Canyoneer | Weekend Warrior

More Adventures Nearby

Hike Mount Catherine

Washington / Mount Catherine Trailhead

Start off on the extremely rough Forest Service 9070 road. Follow this for just over 4 miles until you see a sign for trail #1348 on the right.

Bryan Carroll
31 Saves

Hike to Gem Lake

Washington / Snow Lake Trailhead

The trail to Gem Lake lies along the same trail that passes by the incredibly popular Snow Lake.

Shelby Pothier
23 Saves

Hike to Elk Pass via "the Knife"

Washington / Snowgrass Flat Trailhead

This is a rather long out and back, however, it can also be done as a backpack, which would give you more time to explore the Goat Rocks Wilderness, which is highlighted in other Adventures.

Isaac Desautels
20 Saves