The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier in about 93 mi (145 km), climbing over the numerous steep ridges that separate the great glacially carved valleys that lead up to this majestic stratovolcano. Over the course of this route, the hiker will traverse a cumulative elevation change of about 22,000 feet (6,700 m). The average time it takes to hike the Wonderland Trail in its entirety is about ten days.

View map of the Wonderland Trail

During my hikes on the Wonderland Trail, I have passed many different folks with different itineraries.

Most fit-looking people seem to prefer nine or ten days, but this means that hiking is your full-time job.

You need to get up and be ready at a reasonable hour and once or twice you’ll probably find yourself pulling into camp as dusk settles in.

A handful of hikers take as long as twelve to fourteen days to make the trip.

As you slow the pace, hiking becomes a secondary experience to spending time in some of the most beautiful country in the world.

If you give yourself longer than ten days, you’ll have plenty of time to rest, let your body repair itself, and reflect on the incredible scenery. I think that sounds wonderful, and someday I’m determined to try it so I can focus on photography and eating chocolate rather than pounding out the miles.

In 2009 I passed two separate endurance runners who were running the whole 93 miles in one shot. I also met a couple (probably in their late fifties) headed the other direction from me and was quite startled to see them come around the corner of the trail two days later – they were going ultralight and hiking about 23 miles a day. All this to say: you have some options.

Where should you start your trip on the Wonderland Trail?

There are currently a number of trailheads giving one access to the Wonderland Trail. Check out this page for more info on these trailheads. Most backpackers start at Longmire, Mowich Lake, or Sunrise. These trailheads are roughly equidistant from each other, and conveniently, food caches can also be sent to these locations.

Here is my favorite nine day itinerary:

Day Start and End Approx. Daily Mileage
1 Sunrise to Summerland 10
2 Summerland to Nickel Creek 11
3 Nickel Creek to Paradise River 10
4 Paradise River to Devil’s Dream 9
5 Devil’s Dream to Klapatche Park 10
6 Klapatche Park to Golden Lakes 8
7 Golden Lakes to Mowich Lake 10
8 Mowich Lake to Dick Creek (via Spray Park) 10
9 Dick Creek to Sunrise 13