“Circle Mount Rainier's middle slopes on this incredibly strenuous, long-distance hike.
— Tom Robson
Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The Wonderland Trail encircles Mount Rainier in its entirety. It is a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain/loss through lowland forests and valleys into subalpine and high alpine communities.
The trail is entirely encompassed within the National Park, and passes through all of the Park's major environmental communities. The trail truly is wonderful; it passes from lowland forests to subalpine meadows, home to many wildflowers. As the trail circles the mountain, hikers see different faces of Mount Rainier, each carved by one of 25 different named glaciers.
A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the wilderness of Mount Rainier National Park. Please Note: Those wishing to climb above 10,000 feet or onto any glaciers must purchase a Climbing Pass. Climbers who wish to camp overnight must also get a Wilderness Permit in order to reserve a campsite.
Learn more about wilderness permits here
Need to Know
Use this super-helpful trip planner
to help decide an appropriate itinerary if you're attempting the full trail.
Hikers doing the complete Wonderland Trail are limited to camping in designated sites only. The use of cross-country zones is not permitted. When making a reservation request, please choose to fax OR mail your reservation NOT both. Doing both creates multiple problems for reservations and management.
The Wonderland Trail has eighteen trailside wilderness camps and three non-wilderness camps. NOT ALL CAMPS HAVE GROUP SITES. Parties with 6-12 people will need a camp that has a group site. There is no wilderness or non-wilderness camping at Longmire.
Hikers looking to complete the entire trail can cache food at several locations along the 93 mile (150km) route. Learn more here
The Wonderland Trail crosses numerous ridges and valleys, generally taking 8-12 days to complete. Many portions are accessible by road and can be done as day hikes.
This trail is a distinguishing feature of Mount Rainier National Park. This trail was established at the turn of the century when the "Wonderland" was an attraction used to promote park visitation. Later, rangers used the trail as a patrol beat. Original ranger cabins are still in use. The oldest cabin, constructed in 1915, rests at Indian Henry's Hunting Ground.
Today's hikers find the 93 mile Wonderland to be one of the best ways to explore Mount Rainier National Park. The trail scales lowland forests to subalpine meadows of wildflowers. Passing swift rivers, the trail leads to commanding views of Mount Rainier cloaked in icy glaciers. As the trail circles the mountain, hikers will witness the varied faces of Mount Rainier, carved by 25 named glaciers.
Weather is a constantly changing factor. While summer is often dry and sunny, oceanic influences can also bring moisture as rain or snow at higher elevations. Hikers can find both company and solitude along the way. Although thousands hike the Wonderland Trail each summer, many stretches of the trail still provide the chance to be alone. Prior awareness of trail and weather conditions, wilderness regulations and general hiking information about the park will enhance a trip along the Wonderland Trail.
Perhaps the biggest aspect in planning to hike the Wonderland Trail is you knowing your hiking skills, abilities and habits. Rangers cannot tell you that. Nobody knows your skill level better than you. This is important when laying the foundation for your trip... selecting the proper distance between campsites (see the Need To Know section). Do you live and hike primarily in mountainous terrain and climates, or lower elevation areas? Hiking on flat terrain for 93 miles is far easier than having to climb up three thousand feet with a full pack day, after day, after day. This sounds like something that should not have to be stated, but hikers are often seen going beyond their skill level. This usually leads to injury, illness, misery and an early end to a long-planned trip.
Flora & Fauna
An elevation range of approximately 13,000 feet creates a variety of habitats and life zones in Mount Rainier that remain protected. You'll likely see different plants and animals in each ecological community. This diversity provides for a broad assortment of invertebrates, mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.
The highly visible Columbian black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, noisy Stellar's jays, and common ravens are animals that many people remember. The most diverse and abundant animals in the park, however, are the invertebrates -insects, worms, crustaceans, and spiders, to name just a few- that populate all the environmental communities to the top of Columbia Crest itself.
Though the park is world-renowned for its elaborate wildflower displays, the nonflowering vegetation of Mount Rainier National Park is also remarkably diverse. Climate and elevation range greatly in the park, creating a wide variety of habitats supporting an extensive number of plant species.
History & Background
Established in 1915, the Wonderland Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1981.