Washington's Wonderland Trail

Mind-bending views, close-up wildlife encounters.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

If truth be told, you frustrated us with your top pick. In September 2000, we ran a story (“A Hiker In Wonderland”) on the trail. Had we known the Reader Ratings results then, we would have published it in conjunction with this story. Now we sing the praises, once again, of the wondrous Wonderland Trail. But, come to think of it, this is a path well worth another look, anyway.

Mt. Rainier’s Wonderland Trail surpassed all others for scenery, and you know why if you’ve stood on the trail atop any of its 20-plus moraine crests. If, from it, you’ve gazed in amazement at the massive volcano it circumscribes, or peered into the indescribably deep glacial valleys, or looked across the tapestry of wildflowers in this zone between heaven and Earth, then you know this is one great trail.

And if you’ve hiked the 360-degree circuit and seen the great herds of mountain goats, elk, and deer grazing at around timberline, then you understand the trail’s top wildlife rating.

Readers also appreciate the trail conditions and amenities. Perhaps because it’s within a National Park, the Wonderland’s trail maintenance, the sign quality, and the old stone structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps are all top drawer.

Finally, readers revel in the toughness of this trail. It’s a route with nearly 23,000 feet of gain and loss, and its mind-bending views and close-up wildlife encounters demand a hefty payment in sweat. Says our Northwest Editor, John Harlin, “Of the 93 miles, only a handful are flat. The rest either climb steeply up a glacial valley or drop like a stone into the next one.”

For best information:

Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211; www.nps.gov/mora/trail/wonder.htm.

Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail Encircling Mount Rainier, by Bette Filley (Dunamis House, P.O. Box 321, Issaquah, WA 98027; $12.95).