Wonderland Trail information

6:54 p.m. on July 22, 2005 (EDT)
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I am planning a trip to hike the wonderland trail around Mt Ranier. If I only have a week to go bacpacking, does anybody have any suggestions for loop trails or section trails as part of the wonderland trail? When is the best time of year to be there? Are backcountry permits easy or hard to obtain? Thanks in advance for any information you may provide.

1:34 a.m. on July 26, 2005 (EDT)

The trail, depending on options, is about 96 miles. I can speak from experience that the trip can be done in a week but to really enjoy yourself I would suggest 8 to 10 days. It just gives you more options when it comes to side hikes.

That much said, you must obtain a permit to do the trail. This is not optional. Camping is restricted to designated spots, and the park opens up reservations in March, I believe, for the season, which generally begins in July and runs through early October generally. This last year they changed the system again and now use a lottery for permits. As the trail is regarded as a "classic" it is quite popular, although in my humble of opinion, there are many hikes in the Pacific Northwest that are just as worthy.

Now the good news. People cancel reservations for many reasons. And a certain number of campsites are reserved with the walk-in hiker in mind, so it is possible to show up and get a reservation. The trick is to get lucky and be flexible. You can't be sure where you might start from, so it could involve some pretty interesting logistics, especially if, say, you are at Longmire, and find out that you really need to start your hike at Mowich Lake (it's a long drive around the park to get there).

Now, provided you get on the trail, you can cache your food and fuel often on the trail. There are a number of ranger stations you can have food stored so you don't have to carry it all in. (You can't underestimate the joy of not having to carry 10 days worth of food). You can even mail it to the ranger station (you cannot, however, send fuel via mail).

In regards to a reservation, you might be able to still mail in a request and possibly work with a ranger by phone on your request (you gotta be really nice because they are really busy). They might be able to help you out, especially if you are flexible. If you can start midweek, even the better. If you can start after school begins in early September, you will have a much, much better chance. Just remember to cut your days short because the days get shorter in the fall. But the fall is a great time to be in the Cascades. Best part, few bugs!

A good alternative trail that would give you a taste of the Wonderland in a shorter spurt is the Northern Loop Trail. It's 38 miles and shares some of the trail with the Wonderland before branching off down another valley. It's a great hike and can be easily done in four days or so.

This will be my third year attempting the trail, the last two ending prematurely. My mom blew out her knee the first year. The second year we were driven off the mountain by a combination of snow, endless rain (when it wasn't snowing), sleet and the bridge washouts. The night we decided to bag out, we trudged 17-miles through rain to get to Paradise, where we gladly paid for a dry room and hot meal at the lodge after six days of miserable weather. It was fun, don't get me wrong, but taught me a good lesson: Ultralight hiking is good and fine, but in the fall, bring extra equipment to offset the cold. If it had dropped another 10 degrees, we would have been in trouble.

Realistically, the fall is arguably the nicest time to be in the Cascades. The weather is generally dry early in the fall and like I said, you don't have to contend with the mosquitoes. Just know that snow can hit the mountains anytime (yes, even in August), so be prepared.

10:02 p.m. on August 2, 2005 (EDT)
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Thanks a bunch regarding the info on the Wonderland Trail. I think I really liked your idea about the Northern Loop Trail and would plan to do the loop trail first to get a feeling of the weather you described in August/September. Thanks again. If you every need any information regarding the AT in North Georgia just let me know. I generally hike the AT in sections but have almost completed the entire Georgia section and I plan on having that last 25 mile section done by later this fall when its a little cooler.

Happy Trails,

9:10 p.m. on August 24, 2005 (EDT)

I just read your note on the Wonderland Trail. I just completed hiking the whole distance on August 15th, 2005. It was fantastic.
But one caution, if you are flying into SEATAC and hoping to get transportation from there to Mt. Rainier, it can be tricky. The shuttle services on the web and in the books were not available on August 2nd when I arrived there. They have apparently gone out of business despite their reassurances last spring when I called to check on timing. I ended up with a very expensive limo ride to Longmire in order to start my hike on time on August 3rd. The only bus I could find leaves SEATAC at 8:00 am daily and its very hard to get to Seattle by that time to make that connection.
Good Luck and Enjoy the hike!

11:28 a.m. on August 26, 2005 (EDT)

I'm headed with a friend to do the Trail loop in mid-September. We are finding the same issue... no reasonable priced transportation from SEATAC to the park. The cost of the last service I checked on was more expensive that the plane ticket from Virginia.

If anybody out there knows of anyone who is offering rides from SEATAC to Sunrise, I've be very interested in knowing.

I may be thumbing as a last resort!


12:18 p.m. on November 15, 2005 (EST)

Hi-loking for detailed mapping of the Wonderland Trail for an attempt at the record speed for completion.I understand that its been done in a day?Any advice or leads in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

5:50 p.m. on December 28, 2005 (EST)

I've been hiking in Mt. Rainier for as long as I can remember and like the previous commentor I also am thinking of attempting to break the speed record for the Wonderland Trail. I was just wondering what steps I need to take to make my attempt official in case I do break the record. Thanks,

11:55 p.m. on March 14, 2006 (EST)

Anyone have any info on public transportation from Seattle to Longmire and back?

I need to get three guys from Seattle to Longmire the evening of Saturday, 9/02, and then back to Seattle (the airport) on the night of Friday, 9/08.

I'm looking for a shuttle or bus service, but if there are any locals out there that are looking to do the trail, and are willing to drive, let me know.

12:13 p.m. on March 15, 2006 (EST)
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Something you might consider for transportation is renting a car if you have more than 2 people. It can be cheaper than a limo, especially if you use one of the discount companies like RentAWreck or even Enterprise. They usually have unlimited mileage for weekly rates. I have done this for some trips where I had the car parked at the trailhead for 10 days and still was way ahead of paying for 3 of us in a limo, and close to paying for a shuttle bus for the round trip.

July 16, 2018
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