Wonderland Trail w/ a 10 year old?

4:53 p.m. on July 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi All!

Fairly new to the site and was hopping for some general advice.

I would like to hike the Wonderland trail (Mt. Rainer, Washington State) next year (2012) with my son, he will be 10 at the time.  I would love my daughter to come to, but at 14 I don't think it's going to happen. She has to many important things to do! :)-  Anyway, I was thinking of making it a full two week trip, with restocks along the way.  Hiking would be between 8 to 10 miles a day with several layovers at different points to rest up and enjoy the sights.

We are both going to need to get in shape before the hike, me much more then him.  But I am worried about the trail it's self and the overall amount of hiking for him (son).  We do a lot of camping, hike is some place spend a few days and hike out, but never something like this.   On these types of trips he has no problem caring his own gear and some of the general gear, usually around 15 lbs.  But like I said, not sure how he would hold up for a longer period of hiking. 

Maybe I am just being a overly worried parent! :)  But it would really suck if the trip was not very enjoyable and he had a really hard time. 

So some specific questions:

  • Anyone hiked the whole thing with children?
  • Is gas stoves the only option for cooking? I was thinking about a small wood-gas stove, to burn sticks and the like to cut down on fuel usage.
  • Any recommendations on when to go?  It looks like late summer would be best.  I realize that it would depend a lot on the snow pack.
  • If you think this might be to much for a first big hike, are their any other loop hikes that you would recommend.  We live in western Washington and I don't want to head out of state at this point.
  • One other idea I had was to take several longer hikes over the fall and spring this year and next to get us in shape and build up endurance.  Dose this seem like a reasonable idea, and if so any hike suggestions?

Thanks for any and all help!!


11:35 a.m. on July 21, 2011 (EDT)
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I don't know the Wonderland except that it sorta fizzles out on the Eastern portion and requires route finding.  Beautiful but sorta rugged.  If you resupply your food and gas and not try to carry it all at once it sounds doable.  Otherwise the 10 yr old will have to carry too much.  I wouldnt pack more than 25-33% of their body weight on a child, leaning strongly toward 25%. 

8 miles daily will likely work but its a bit far for a 10 yr old I think.  Shoot for 8 as a max and 6 as an average.  Kids like to play, not just walk. Also consider taking a day off mid-hike and loafing at some interesting palce for a day. 

I think a ten year old can hack it.  I took my nine year old up Mt Adams last year and again this year.  I take at least some of my kids on about every hike I go on (ages 3,5,7,10,12). 

I have hiked the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from Stevens to Snoqualmie pass twice and its great in 10 days and challenging in 7.  If you can work the drop off and pick up I reccommend that trip strongly, its AMAZINGLY beautiful and you see lots of different country, including Glacier Peak, Rainier and Adams. 

For warm ups, take your child up Granite Mtn in Snoqualmie Pass at the Denny Creek Exit on I-90, I have two TRs from there.  Other nice hikes are to Spectacle Lake from Roslyn, take the Roslyn Exit near Cle Elum on I-90.

PM me, I can get you lots more info.  I grew up hiking the Alpine Lake wilderness area and other places near Seattle. 


3:56 p.m. on July 21, 2011 (EDT)
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First two or three days shoot for 6 or seven miles.  Let him set the pace, and make sure he drinks lots of water.  After the third day his body will acclimate to both a pack and the distances, so you can go as far as 10 mile thereafter.

Once you hike longer than three days the physical exertion won’t be the issue; rather it will be his willingness to live that lifestyle, and eat hiking food.  Sneak some special treats for the later days, and bring some rods if there is fishing.  Another big issue may be boredom.  If he can bring a friend it will make a big difference.  Make sure he uses sun block and chapstick (the biggest issue for me on long hikes has always been chapped lips).


6:07 p.m. on July 21, 2011 (EDT)
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You should make sure that both of you have had at least a 4 day/night hike a few times before stepping into this one.  The total gain in altitude is considerable and comes in large doses...all afternoon doing 'stairs'.  The scenery is great but you do pay for it. 

It is a well graded and for the most part well marked trail.

Best done in first week of September or last of August.  You will have a bit of rain for a couple of days (if lucky) and the snow on the high trails (east side) will be mostly gone.

If things go too badly you are only two-three days from a road.  It is well traveled and controlled/patrolled so you won't be alone.

I believe you are restricted to self contained stoves.  The wood may not be burnable easily in some portions of the trail, without a large fire.

Not knowing your son, I think it would be a fine trip for him - physically.  You know already to go slow and if things bum out you are just a day or so from an exit to a car.  The best exercise for you would be a run/walk jog program.  You will need a lot of aerobic strength for this.  You should check with a pediatrician on your 10 year old about any running other than what he gets in school.  I'm going to bet he will last longer than you anyway.  Check here for a conditioning program for running: 

http://www.exrx.net/Beginning.html  (jog/walk program)

You should consider some weight lifting between now and the time you leave.  If you have the time and the money to spend on a program at a gym, you will have a lot better results than just hiking/running.

I think the best route is from Nickle Creek to Longmire.  This leaves out a portion of the trail that runs by the road.  I'd be very disappointed if that were my last part of the trail.  I liked it best counter-clock wise...starting at Nickle.  BIG uphill first two days tho.  But if you want to do the entire trail, start at Longmire CCW or Nickle CW.  That leaves a good part to end with.

The Timberline around Mt Hood is similar in a lot of respects to Wonderland, but not as long.  But would be a good exercise before doing the Wonderland.

You will have to plan your overnights well for your permit.  You must stay in those that you planned to be staying with.  There are other regulations such as you can't pee in the outhouses and you can't poop in the woods.

There is not a lot of exploring away from the camps - some but once you get off the trail you are in usually in dense forests unless you are near meadows.  You could in some cases explore up toward glaciers, but you will be doing a lot of close glacier walking on the north and west sides.

I'd like to find a really good book on the fungi of the Rainier area.  It would help to figure out all the bazillion mushrooms lol.

Have fun it is a wonderful trip your son will love for a long time.

7:57 p.m. on July 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Guys, a lot!

Ed, Yea I was thinking the same thing, starting off with some slower days and then adding distance as we got into the swing of it.  I am sure he will be kicking my butt through out the hike.  :)  Not sure about a friend, I don't know of any of his friends that backpack.  It would be nice to get my daughter to go also, but we'll see. 

speacock, I am the one that really need the work out program, he is active all the time, but I am going to try to get him to start the walk/run program with me. 

As for the stove, I plan on taking my Nova white gas stove also, but I am working on a few of the "wood-gas" stoves to see how well they work and last.  It would be nice not to have to carry so much fuel.  I not sure but I think the open fire (Camp fire) will be restricted for most of the trail.  I know their is talk about banning them completely in the park.  Or at least in the back country. 

It the trail around Mt Hood like the Wonderland, where you need permits and a plan that you have to stick to?  That is my biggest worry about doing this trip. 

FromSagetoSnow, Thanks for the trail info, I may just PM you later for more info.  I hiked some of the Alpine Lakes area years back but have not been up there in years.  It was nice though.  That might be a better option if the Wonderland becomes to much of a pain to setup.   Like I said, I am not to sure about the strict schedule.  :( 

I will also look at your trail reports, Maybe try one of those later this year.  We are going to the coast to meet up with some of the extended family the first week in August and I am hoping to do one or two more trips after that before they are back in school. 

One other question, have you ever hiked the one of the Coast trails, north or south in November?  I know it would depend a lot on the weather, but I was thinking about that too.  I did half the North coast (in at Shi Shi and out at Ozette about 20 years ago, but never got back to finish it. :)


8:22 p.m. on July 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Lots of water crossing the trail - on the order of every hour or more.  I tried to take a picture of each foot bridge.  All are different.  Unfortunately there are no fish in most of the streams - if any

Give your son a camera that is his to use to take pictures of anything he wants.  Make him carry the extra batteries lol

You need a permit for around Hood, but don't think you are required to stay on a specific plan - best to check and plan the time when you might do that. 

The two of you would be fine with just two large containers -- maybe a pound and no mess no fuss and it simmers and starts immediately.  That is worth a lot of weight. No open fires for the entire trip and perhaps restrictions on other fires.

Before you get your son pounding the streets, check in with a coach, a professional trainer or a physician.  More than likely he will stay ahead of you most of the time.  Even if you do loose that spare tire.  Get a pro trainer to put together a work out plan and stick with it.  Amazing hat all those other muscles are doing to just help get you up the trail.  Hiking with a full pack is not the best way to train.  It takes more time than a gym would and opens you up to injury.

9:24 a.m. on July 22, 2011 (EDT)
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I have no experience with the coast trails but I knows it rains 100in or so there a year so be advised. 

8:44 p.m. on July 26, 2011 (EDT)
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August and a bit on either side is usual 'dry' season.  But a chunk of rock that big makes its own weather - especially on the north 'wet' side.  Be sure to bring tripod if taking pictures.  Much of the trail is in heavy timber with outstanding views of the summit all around.

June 21, 2018
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