The walk around Mt. Rainier is an adventure, no matter how many times I do it. It is a privilege to get to know this mountain so intimately.
The first thing you need to know is to be flexible in your planning. It is best to fax your reservation request between March 15 and March 31 to the Longmire Ranger Station. On the reservation request, you need to indicate your campsite preferences. If a particular campsite is full (like Indian Bar) you will be assigned different campsites if available. There are also backcountry permits available, which let you stay just about anywhere, as long as you are more than 1/2 mile off the trail. In any case, get your permit request in, as soon as it’s received it will be accepted. My last itinerary was South Pullayup, Eagles’ Roost, Granite Creek, and Nickel Creek. I requested Indian Bar, which is one of my favorite spots on the planet, but it was unavailable on my dates.
Another thing to know: the full length of the trail is between 90.5 and 96 miles. Calculating from trail signs will give different mileage than the distance indicated on trail maps. No matter, it is a long way. Fully worthy of five days of your life. Some people take two weeks to do the trail, which is rather leisurely. Most folks can easily do this trail in seven to ten days.
I typically do the Wonderland Trail in early September. It is cold enough at night to reduce the mosquito population, still enough daylight to hike ten hours a day, and the snows haven’t started falling. And the weather is generally good.
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