The Wonderland Trail
encircling Mount Rainier
The North Side:
The trail descriptions are divided up between campsites that are found along the
trail, spaced between three and seven miles apart. Don't plan on skipping by three or four
of them in one day. The trail is steep: you will gain 20,000 feet over the whole trail,
and gains and losses of 3,500 feet a day are common. It is simply divided this way
for easy reference.
From Mowich Lake the hiker has two options. Option A is to continue on
the Wonderland Trail via Ipsut Creek. This route is shorter, and less strenuous, but
lacks the views. Option B is to leave the Wonderland Trail and
travel through Spray Park and Seattle Park and meet with the Wonderland Trail at Carbon River Camp. This trail offers magnificant views,
endless flower meadows, but it is longer and more difficult.
After reaching Carbon River Camp the hiker again has
another choice. They can continue on the Wonderland Trail via Mystic Lake to Sunrise
which we will call Alternative 1. This route offers spectactular
views of the Carbon and Winthrop Glaciers, Mount Rainier, and Moraine Park. The
second choice is Alternative 2 which is to go to Sunrise via Lake
James. This route offers fantastic views of Windy Gap and of Mount Rainier from a
farther distance. This route is longer and in past experience alot more bugs.
Mowich Lake - Ipsut Creek 5.5 miles
Cross the large gravel area that used to be a parking lot which is now the
campground and continue along the edge of Mowich Lake. Soon the trail begins a
gentle climb from the lake towards Ipsut Pass. At 1.5 miles is Ipsut Pass.
From here the trail descends steeply via twenty switchbacks across an open talus slope
overgrown with brush. Be sure to have the water bottles filled before completing
this section because streams are few and far between. The trail begins to level off
and meanders through ancient forest. At 5.0 miles the spur trail to Ipsut Creek
Campground is to the left.
Ipsut Creek - Carbon River Camp 2.9 miles
Follow the spur trail back to the Wonderland Trail and travel through the forest,
at times the Carbon River will come into view. At two miles the Northern Loop trail
leads to the left as descirbed in Alternative 2. Continue on until reaching Carbon River Camp at 2.9 miles.
Mowich Lake - Eagles Roost Camp 1.9 miles
The trail begins south of the lake down the hill. The trail then forks,
stay left and cross the stream. At 1.5 miles is Eagle Cliff which is just off the
trail. On a clear day the Deer's Head is visible on the Mowich Face of the mountain.
At 1.9 miles is Eagle's Roost Camp.
Eagles Roost Camp - Cataract Valley 4.5 miles
Soon after Eagles Roost Camp is the junction with the Spray Falls trail. It
is a short side trip to the 400 foot waterfall. For a better view cross the slippery
rocks to the other side of Spray Creek. A half mile from the falls you enter Spray
Park, and are greeted with spectactular flower meadows and view of the mountain.
Many trails cross and recross the park, but please stay on them as to not damage
the flowers. Continue on and pass through several more meadows that may have
snowfields in them up a set of stairs. At 2.0 miles is the top of the ridge and the
start of the permanent snow field. It will usually be marked by flagging. At
3.0 miles is Seattle Park characterized by the flowers, streams, and erosion steps.
At 4.0 miles the trail re-enters the forest cover descending down several
switchbacks. At 4.5 miles is Cataract Valley Camp.
Cataract Valley - Carbon River Camp 2.0 miles
Follow the trail down the next twelve switchbacks through a forest that was
nearly devastated by a windstorm. On the way down Mother Mountain will be visible.
At 2.0 miles is the junction with the Wonderland Trail and Carbon
Carbon River Camp - Dick Creek Camp 2.2 miles
Dick Creek Camp - Mystic Lake 5.9 miles
Mystic Lake - Granite Creek Camp 4.5 miles
Granite Creek Camp - Sunrise 4.0 miles
Carbon River Camp - Yellowstone Cliffs 5.0 miles
Yellowstone Cliffs - Redstone Peak 3.4 miles
Redstone Peak - Fire Creek Camp 5.0 miles
Fire Creek Camp - Berkeley Camp 3.5 miles
Berkeley Camp - Sunrise 2.5 miles
Continue on to the East Side