Mount Rainier National Park: Summerland-Panhandle Gap via Wonderland Trail

Climb to unforgettable wildflower-filled meadows, then ascend even higher past turquoise pools to 6,800-foot Panhandle Gap, where views stretch out across Ohanapecosh Park.
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Climb to unforgettable wildflower-filled meadows, then ascend even higher past turquoise pools to 6,800-foot Panhandle Gap, where views stretch out across Ohanapecosh Park.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-camping-and-hiking.htm.

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations requests accepted by fax or mail, starting on March 15th of each year ($20/reservation). Download form at nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-reservation-information.htm.

CONTACT Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/mora

-Mapped by Alan Bauer, Alan Bauer Photography

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 18.5

Waypoints

SUM001

Location: 46.888381, -121.610922

Leave the parking area by the bridge, and pick up the well-signed trail that travels southwest along Fryingpan Creek.

SUM002

Location: 46.886903, -121.612151

Keep left at this junction with the Wonderland Trail. Follow the gently sloped trail up the valley; the sounds of Fryingpan Creek are within earshot.

SUM003

Location: 46.87514, -121.624961

Pass over a small bridge that crosses a side creek. At this point, the Wonderland Trail starts to climb more steeply in areas as you head up a gorge. Watch for black bears munching on huckleberries in the thick brush.

SUM004

Location: 46.870343, -121.64511

Stop here for views of Fryingpan Creek tumbling down a steep gorge. Hummingbirds dart around flowering shrubs.

SUM005

Location: 46.869757, -121.653972

Cross Fryingpan Creek on a foot-log bridge and gaze at the stunning gorge below you. Next, proceed west up the valley and enter a wildflower-filled paradise.

SUM006

Location: 46.869771, -121.655474

Get here by mid-late July and you'll be treated to impressive shows of avalanche lilies that blanket entire gullies and hillsides. Glacier lilies, magenta paintbrush, bistort, lupines, marsh marigolds, and partridgefoot add to the rainbow of colors.

SUM007

Location: 46.865209, -121.659036

Summerland Camp: Surrounded by more lupines, magenta paintbrush, and meadows of wildflowers (look for hoary marmots), the wooden shelter at Summerland Camp is a great spot to grab a snack before heading onward.

SUM008

Location: 46.86431, -121.659111

This small stream that trickles down the meadows just past Summerland is bordered by a lush carpet of pink monkeyflower.

SUM009

Location: 46.861585, -121.657684

Pass a waterfall. The trail climbs steadily above Summerland, leaving meadows for a rocky, moonscape-like landscape. Rock penstemon, partridgefoot, and other ground-hugging wildflowers dot the ground.

SUM010

Location: 46.859839, -121.655731

Cross the fast moving creek on a log bridge. Even in mid-July, patches of snow linger here. Watch for the hoary marmots roaming around the heather and grasses.

SUM011

Location: 46.858006, -121.65197

The trail passes by reflective pools in the flat areas below Fryingpan Glacier—a perfect place to stop for lunch. Ahead, the route crosses steep snowfields below Panhandle Gap.

SUM012

Location: 46.854982, -121.646075

Panhandle Gap: Your efforts are rewarded on this 6,800-foot saddle. Grand views extend north toward Summerland Camp and southwest over Ohanapecosh Park. Look for roaming bears and eagles and hawks riding the thermals over the Gap. Optional: Turn left onto the boot path for more views.

SUM014

Location: 46.85551, -121.640174

This overlook perched above the Sarvant Glaciers reveals views of more glaciers and peaks to the east-southeast. Retrace your route back to your car.

Monkeyflower

Location: 46.864306, -121.659041

Tarn

Location: 46.858049, -121.651697

View from Panhandle Gap

Location: 46.855011, -121.64571