Wonderland Trail — Monday, Sep. 12, 2016
Mount Rainier Area
Type of HikeDay hike
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition
RoadRoad suitable for all vehicles
SnowIntermittent snow - not hard to cross
Completing the Wonderland was a goal that I had put on the backburner earlier this summer as I concentrated on peak bagging adventures however as summer began to wane I find my eye wandering to the immense mountain in my backyard and I decided that if the opportunity arose, I would have a go at it. Well, a perfect weather window coincided with some time off work and it I decided there was no time like the present. I would start my journey early on day 1 at Sunrise, going in a counterclockwise direction to Longmire. I would then take day 2 to rest at a local cabin my girlfriend and I had rented before setting out on day 3 to complete the loop from Longmire to Sunrise. Day 1. Began at Sunrise at 0300 beneath what felt like a million stars. Temperature was near freezing so I set a strong pace to keep warm. I chose to start this portion in the dark because I am very familiar with it as well as it being a relatively easy first 14 miles or so. Within three or so hours I find myself crossing the suspension bridge over the Carbon River as I chose to do the Spray Park option. Up until this point I found plenty of water sources along the trail and never carried more than 34 oz. The climb up to Spray Park was made a bit more interesting when I encountered a sow and her two cubs not far off the trail. She was unfazed by my appearance and went back to doing her thing as I tip toed past her on the trail. Only one small patch of snow to cross just below where you top out on Spray Park. Views were stellar as usual and I had the entire park to myself. Once I dropped down below the treeline I began to encounter quite a few hikers as well as a trail party. After linking up with the Wonderland trail near Mowich, it was a pleasant quick pace down to the Mowich River. Then the long climb out of Mowich towards Golden Lakes. The trail is in great condition throughout this section but I did find that water sources get scarce between Mowich and Golden Lakes. From there it is the steady rhythm of dropping down and climbing out of each drainage as you make your way towards Longmire. I was surprised to find that much of this section was below treeline and you a really aren't treated to "big" views until you hit Klapatche Park. By this time the clouds had moved in around the mountain obscuring views of the upper slopes. Despite this, there was still plenty of jaw dropping scenery. Things got a little type 2'ish as I began to climb out of the Puyallup River around mile 43. But after a quick five minute break, I got my head back on track and climbed out of that valley to witness some of the most incredible views of the mountain. Lots of gawking taking place here. Then it was back down to the Tahoma and the cool suspension bridge over that waterway before the final climb up and the long downhill'ish finish to Longmire. Darkness fell as I had about four miles to go. At just before 9 PM, with about 18 hours of trail time, I trotted into the Longmire parking lot ready for some hot food! After resting the following day. My girlfriend dropped me off at Longmire and I began the final portion of the loop. Because of the large first day, this day was very manageable and I figured if everything went well, I would be able to complete the entire portion before darkness fell. The stretch from Longmire to Reflections Lakes was a nice mellow start to warm up my stiff legs. Also a that time of the morning, a usually crowded portion of the trail was relatively quiet. The long descent into Box Canyon was uneventful and I was thankful for all the work the trail crews had put in through this section as there were a lot of blowdowns! I felt like the climb out of Box Canyon was my last big obstacle as once I cleared the treeline and headed towards Indian Bar, I would be treated to great views of the mountain that would distract me from the mileage that was piling up on my legs. Of note, water was a bit scarce in this section from Box Canyon to Indian Bar. Sure enough, those huge views did the trick and the miles just flew by. I took a final break at Indian Bar which might be my favorite part of the trail before the quick steep climb out of that area towards Panhandle Gap. There were three small snowfields to cross before the Gap but I was fine in my running shoes. Once I topped out at the Gap, I knew I was on the home stretch. I quickly descended towards Summerland as the sun crept towards the western horizon. I was fortunate to spy a group of mountain goats here. Once past Summerland, as the trail becomes pretty cushy, I was able to get back to making good time and sped my way through the woods and across White River to face my last few miles of the trail. Surprisingly, the climb to Sunrise went by rather quickly and in under an hour I was making my way over the last mile of the trail. My timing couldn't have been more perfect as the sunset lit up the eastern sky behind me and the moon rose in the east. I placed my hand on the Wonderland sign that saw me off just a couple of days before. What a feeling! All told, according to my GPS watch. 29 hours on the trail, 91 miles and 25,000' of gain.