The Wonderland Trail is one of the most gorgeous hidden areas of the Pacific Northwest. It is considered one of the best trails in this area. To put it simply, the Wonderland hike is every outdoor lover’s dream. But, this route is also very challenging, with a distance of 93 miles and an elevation change of more than 23,000 feet.
If you are ready for such an adventure, it will reward you with alpine lakes, beautiful meadows, breathtaking views, as well as rich rainforests. The beauty of this route will certainly not disappoint you. In this article, we will talk about everything you would need for a hike through this breathtaking location.
Wonderland Trail Guide
- Length – 9 to 12 days
- Distance – 93 miles
- Elevation – 23,000 ft
- When to Go – July to September
- Difficulty – High
- Permit – Required
- Huge Waterfalls
- Meadows Filled with Wildflowers
- Breathtaking Mountain Views
- Beautiful Glaciers
- Properly Marked Trail
- Easily Reached
- Not Enough Solitude
- Big Descents and Climbs
- Occasional Snow and Bugs
- Required Permit
- Restricted Access to Campsites
When to Go
In general, July to September is considered the best period to hike this route. Snowpack is a crucial factor when it comes to planning this journey. Sometimes, heavy snow and storms cover the trail even in July. But, the tracks are generally accessible in June when the weather is warmer. The same goes for hiking in the fall – sometimes the area is not accessible because of bad weather, and sometimes it is available in October.
Wildflowers are at their best in July and August, but there are also a lot of mosquitoes during that time. It is important to use some form of protection so you can have a safe journey. If you want to avoid bugs, you can hike in the period from mid-August to September. Carefully following the weather condition is essential when planning the Wonderland Trail hike since there is a possibility of bad weather throughout the whole year.
The elevation gain on this hike should not be overlooked. Hikers commonly make the same mistakes by planning to hike too many miles daily. Doing so greatly increases the chance of injury which could ruin your trip. It is important to get to know your body and your limits before any planning. This hike’s difficulty depends on your physical fitness, experience, weather conditions, as well as your pack weight.
The Wonderland hike is not among the most technically demanding ones, but it requires a lot of climbing and descending. Walking on the flat terrain is very rare. That is why it is essential to prepare your body by doing various exercises in addition to day hikes. The combination of hiking and lounges, push-ups, and squats can get your body in great shape.
The Wonderland overnight trips can only be done with a permit and that is why they are always in demand. The requests for the permit are usually done in March. Besides, you should also apply for the itinerary. Wonderland Permits are given through a lottery, so applying does not guarantee you will get it.
There are 18 campsites along the Wonderland Trail. You are not allowed to camp outside these backcountry camping areas. Also, you need to choose the ones you’d like to spend the nights with when you apply for a permit.
Every campsite has a pit toilet, different locations for tents, as well a bear pole for food protection. These areas are close to a water source and are in good condition. But, they are almost always packed, so you will most likely have a neighbor.
The Wonderland hike is usually done in 10 days, so reducing pack weight is very common. There are 4 such locations in total, but bear in mind two (White River and Sunrise) are next to each other. You can either drop the food off in person or ship it to these locations:
- White River Campground
- Sunrise Visitor Center
- Mowich Lake Patrol Cabin
- Longmire Wilderness Information Center
Bear in mind you should always follow the food dropping rules. For example, use hard plastic containers with labels for your food drop and never store fuel.
You should learn about the Wonderland regulations and follow all the rules. For example, pets, fires, bicycles as well as other wheeled devices are not allowed. Following the leave-no-trace principles is another way of preserving the beautiful nature of this region.
Make sure you appropriately dispose of the waste. Never leave toilet paper or food bags behind you. Picking up the trash someone else has left behind them is a good way to keep the area pristine as well.
Water is usually easily accessible on this trail. There are many streams and lakes so hydration should not cause you problems. But, getting a water purifier, such as a water filter is a great option on such journeys. Make sure you get plenty of water at one source so you have enough until you reach the next one.
The Wonderland Trail is very well marked so you won’t need to use your navigation skills. However, it is highly recommended to bring a compass and a map so you avoid any possible problems. Learning how to use these items can come in handy at other hiking routes as well.
Food Storage and Bears
There are a lot of black bears in this area, so you will most likely spot a few. Even though seeing them can be exciting, they can also cause trouble at the campsite. Hikers should pay special attention to their food storage to avoid unpleasant situations. Luckily, every campsite on this trail has a beat pole, so you do not have to worry too much about your food.
Food storage is easy and convenient. It is enough to bring a waterproof bag or a sack, pack your food there, and hang it on one of the bear poles at night. Bug spray, sunscreen, and garbage should also be placed there since these items can emit strong smells and thus attract the animals.
Lightweight backpacking will make your journey more comfortable so you will be able to hike longer distances with less effort. Take some time to choose the proper equipment for the Wonderland hike, but keep in mind you should prepare the following:
- You can either choose a waterproof tent or a regular one, but make sure it is lightweight so you can move more easily. The elevation gain of this route is no joke, so you should try to make it as easy as possible.
- Knowing how to choose the best fit for your backpack is essential. Choosing the wrong backpack can significantly reduce your speed, especially if it is too heavy. Instead, opt for a quality-made lightweight backpack that will support you during this strenuous hike.
- Sleeping bag. Since the weather can be unpredictable, choose a warm sleeping bag. It will keep you safe during the night as well as provide you with quality rest.
- Sleeping pad. Investing in a good sleeping bad which is light, warm, and comfortable can truly make a difference on a long-distance hiking
- You need a lot of calories to get you through the day on such a hike, so getting quality cookware is a must. A lightweight stove will not take too much space but it necessary for a successful hike.
- Water purifier. Proper hydration is crucial for any hike. A water filter will give you access to freshwater wherever you are. Also, it is light and it works fast.
- This piece of equipment is affordable and light but it can be quite an advantage in poor-lit regions.
- You will have to pack all of your food and carry it throughout the Wonderland hike. The food you choose for this journey should be light, dehydrated, and calorie-dense. There are many options, such as rice, tuna, oatmeal, dried fruits, etc. You can calculate how many calories you will need daily and then decide what to pack. There are many available options, so go with your favorite food items.
- Hiking shoes or hiking boots. You have more than one option when it comes to shoes. You can choose hiking boots, hiking shoes, or even trail runners. Just make sure you pick the appropriate fit to prevent blisters.
- Since the weather conditions can be pretty rough, you can either get a rain jacket, a down jacket, a fleece jacket, or all of them.
- Hiking pants. You need a good pair of hiking pants to feel comfortable during the Wonderland route. It is very important to get comfortable pants that are neither too loose nor too tight.
- Hiking shorts. One pair of hiking shorts are a very important part of hiking equipment. They will come in handy when the weather is nice and protect a part of your legs from the harmful sun rays.
- Hiking shirt. You should prepare 1 or 2 pairs of hiking shirts so you can change along the way. Packing both long and short-sleeve shirts is safest because the weather can be quite unpredictable.
- Of course, underwear is another hiking essential. Make sure to choose the quick-dry underwear and pack 1-3 pairs.
- Packing 2-3 pairs of hiking socks are crucial for any hike, so make sure you do not skip this part. Good-quality socks will prevent blisters as well as keep your feet warm.
- Get a hiking hat as well as a warm hat so you are prepared for all weather conditions. You will need sun protection when the weather is nice as well as additional warmth if it snows or rains.
- The weather can cause you trouble, so make sure you prevent any inconvenience by getting a pair of hiking gloves. They will protect your hands and prevent cold fingers.
- Compass and map. Even though the Wonderland is a well-marked path, make sure you bring a topographical map and a compass watch just in case. Hiking in the wilderness is safer when you are well-prepared.
- First aid kit. Never go on a hike without a first aid kit. Gauze and adhesive tape can come in handy in case you need immediate medical attention due to scratches and injuries.
- Sun protection. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and SPF lip balm are essential.
Other items you should pack are:
- Pocket knife
- Small towel
- ID and cash
- Hand sanitizer
- Personal hygiene items
- Insect protection, such as a spray or a cream
- Hiking camera
- You can go through Spray Park from Mowich Lake. Its landscape is more beautiful than the section from Mowich to Ipsut Creek.
- You should prepare for snow on the route. There will be some snow on the trail unless the weather is perfect.
- Be flexible and plan. Planning is very important for the Wonderland route since you need to acquire a permit. The reservation period begins every year in April. If, however, you would like to get a permit after arrival, go to Ipsut Creek, White River, or Longmire so a ranger can help you plan your trip.
Globo Surf Overview
The Wonderland Trail can be your next big adventure! It is one of the most beautiful areas in the Pacific Northwest and will reward you with wildflower meadows, alpine lakes, rich rainforests, as well as breathtaking views. However, it is a challenging 93-mile hike so you should not go there unprepared.
The elevation of 23,000 feet may seem a bit frightening but the whole hike can be done in 10 days. Doing day hikes as well as various forms of exercise will prepare your body for strenuous activity. Also, choosing the right equipment will make the Wonderland hike much easier. Pack good-quality lightweight gear as well as calorie-dense food, get the required permit and embark on this wonderful journey.
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- Hiking Checklist
- Mountain Hiking
- The Wonderland Trail, nps.gov