Southeast of Seattle in the 235,000 acre Mount Rainier National Park, the 93 mile Wonderland Trail encircles Mount Rainier for vistas of the largest glacial system in continental US while passing through virgin forest and timberline snowfields. The total cross country ski route has 20,000 feet of vertical elevation change as it rolls through dense ungroomed backcountry.
The Wonderland Trail is a distinguishing feature of Mount Rainier National Park. Establishment of the trail took place 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, is at Indian Henrys Hunting Ground.
Todays hikers find the 93 mile Wonderland to be one of the best ways to explore Mount Rainier National Park. The trail passes through major life-zones of the park, from 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, trekers 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. Prior awareness of trail and weather conditions, wilderness regulations and general information about the park will enhance a trip along the Wonderland 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. Allow 10 to 14 days to hike the entire trail, depending on your daily average. The more time you give yourself, the more time you will have to enjoy the wonders of the Wonderland.
In many years the Wonderland Trail is still mostly snow-covered during June and early July. An ice axe may be useful in negotiating snowy sections of the trail, especially during June and July. Beware of early snow storms in September!
By caching food and supplies at designated Ranger Stations along the Wonderland trail you can reduce the weight of your pack, and increase the ease of your outdoor adventure. Caching food and supplies at Mount Rainier National Park can be easy and trouble free. If you cache food and supplies remember that there is no guarantee that staff will be available at the time and day you arrive for the pickup. It would be a good idea to contact the park and check about the time you plan to make a cache drop off or pickup.
Overall, Wonderland Trail is the 13th most popular cross country ski area of all 16 Nordic ski destinations in Washington.