|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – November 2009
Don't go up, go around. Rainier's Wonderland Trail loop offers the marathon hiker two weeks of backpacking bliss.
Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier, WA
Like a planetary body, Mt. Rainier pulls all eyes and feet toward its hulking, glacier-jumbled mass. Hike around–instead of up–on this 93-mile loop and you'll remain within the big peak's orbit for the better part of two weeks. Rainier's quicksilver moods match the changeable terrain on the Wonderland Trail, which swings between deep conifer forests, tumultuous rivers, alpine ridges, and permanent snowfields. Best plan: Hike clockwise from Sunrise Visitor Center. You'll walk downhill or on relatively gentle grades for most of the first day, and camp the first night at Summerland, up in the alpine zone with great views of Little Tahoma Peak, a spur of the big mountain. (Summerland is one of 18 designated sites along the route.) And you'll save the most dramatic section–Carbon River to Sunrise, skirting two glaciers and yet more panoramic Rainier views–for last.