Wonderland Trail questions

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    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Planning on hiking (or at least putting in for a permit to hike) the Wonderland this September and would appreciate experienced input on the following issues.

    We want/need to go in early to mid September due to scheduling.  My assumption is that requesting a start date between a range of dates (Sept 8-15, for example) would be a profitable way to maximize our permit chances.

    Starting/ending at White River or Sunrise seems logical, as does going clockwise, to put the best stuff at the end.

    Mystic Camp, Eagle’s Roost, and Klapatche Park all seems like good camps insofar as big views goes.  Camps along the southern end mostly seem forested and might have fewer differences between them, though I’d gladly learn differently.  Tentative itinerary for a six day hike is currently Nickel Creek, Pyramid Creek, Klapatche, Eagle’s, Mystic.

    Is the store at Longmire open in mid-September?  Late on day two this would be a nice place to cheat and grab extra food, if available.

    Billy Ray


    Locale: the mountains

    I don’t know about Klapatche, but Mystic Camp and Eagle’s Roost are both forested without views. Mostly, the camps are in the trees on purpose to avoid environmental damage from years and years of campers. Really, most of the beauty of the Wonderland Trail is during the hiking day; not in the camps. Your best bet to get a permit is to just state a range of dates you can start, the number of days you want to complete the trail, and state that you will accept any camps in either direction. And maybe a maximum number of miles/elevation gain per day. Even being that flexible many many many permit applications do not get permits in the prime July/August time frame. You might have better luck in September, but the weather might not be so good.

    Link .
    BPL Member



    2016 Hours:  

    10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday (June 11 – Sept 4, open 9:00 am – 8:00 pm)

    8:30 am – 6:00 pm, Saturdays, Sundays & holidays

    Eric Moll
    BPL Member


    I did six days starting from Sunrise in July and there was still lots of snow! I believe it was much easier to get permits.  See here:

    Like it was mentioned most of the camps are forested.  Summerland is actually quite nice, but probably too close to Sunrise.  The shelter at Indian Bar was probably my most scenic campsite. I had initially planned a greater distance for day one, but after waiting to get my permit and also having to drive up to Sunrise, I switched to Indian Bar.  There’s also the nice climb up to Panhandle Gap to plan for that first day.

    John Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: East of Cascades

    David, great time to go. I went around then 3 years ago with some fellow BPL members.

    Our itienerary was: Mowich Lake; Klapatche park; Paradise River; Indian Bar; Sunrise; Carbon River; Exited at Mowich Lake

    The trip was great and the hiking companions great as well. Of the campsites I did not like Carbon River. All the sites were exceptionally tight there and the privy was a bit of a hike to get to.

    All that being said the campsites were for the most part not what I was there for. The days were focused on hikes and it was awesome. We had every weather imaginable except high wind. It snowed on us at Sunrise and was windy that night although not excessivley so.


    If I had the exact choices of camp sites to stay at I would have like to start my hike at Mowich and hiked directly to my first site rather than wait to gather. It worked best for us to get there and wait but Mowich was not much to look at and was way crowded.

    I liked the look of Golden Lakes and would try and get that one in if possible but not if it made the day too short.

    I would not camp at White River if I was hiking counter clockwise. Also the hike out of Indian Bar is long and a bit of a grind. I was not in good shape on that trip and the days kicked my butt. We did hike it in basically 5.5 days but I think looking back an extra 1.5 days would have made the trip much more enjoyable.

    I loved Sunrise for the views. I think Indian Bar would have had great views but we were inundated with clouds and non-stop heavy drizzle. Everything wetted out but I stayed dry expect the outside of the footbox of my quilt.

    The food drops worked well and there was extra at every hiker box to pick from and leave stuff at.

    I also think I would try to stay at Mystic Lake as well.

    You will really enjoy the trip. I generally take time off from work in September for two weeks of hiking and I have thought often of returning to the Wonderland.  It truly was glorious.


    BPL Member


    I’ve only hiked sections counterclockwise, but hiked it in its entirety clockwise over six days.  Not sure who you’d be hiking with but I’m sure you’d be fine either direction.  As far as competing for permits goes, you’re awfully close to Labor Day weekend so there might be some competition.

    The only section I’m fairly meh about is from Nickel Creek to Longmire.  If you want to get the ho-hum stuff out of the way, you could start at Box Canyon trail head which is a stone’s throw from Nickel Creek and continue your itinerary from there.  The section between Sunrise and Nickel Creek/Box Canyon is spectacular (especially Summerland and Indian Bar) and would make a wonderful grand finale.  The campgrounds on the southern portion are, ok, but I’d avoid Devel’s Dream if at all possible.  Pyramid seems fine for what it is.

    I’ve never overnighted at Klapatche but its a really beautiful spot and if the weather is clear, you get wonderful views of Rainier.  The lake will be less scenic that late in the year and for us, was barely a puddle in September.  I didn’t walk in to scout out the campsites but looks like you’d be in the trees with a 30 second walk to nice views.

    Pyramid Creek and Nickel Creek are in the trees but are otherwise nice enough campsites.

    You can see some alpenglow through the trees at Eagle’s Roost but will need to hoof it to the views; pretty waterfall 10ish minutes away.  Good call on taking the alternate route through Seattle/Spray park as it is much prettier than hiking down Isput Pass.

    Mystic seemed like a nice campsite and the lake was in better shape than Klapatche when we hiked through in September.

    Anna already posted the hours but I know we grabbed some food at the Longmire store in September.  Porcelain toilets there too.


    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Thanks everyone.

    Ian, I like the idea of starting at Box Canyon.  Those bits near the road aren’t exciting from afar.

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