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The Wonderland Trail

Hiking the Wonderland Trail
The backpacker's guide to Mount Rainier's best trail, Updated for 2016

Panorama of Mount Rainier with Cowlitz Park and the Nickel Creek drainage in foreground. View from upper Cowlitz Divide on the Wonderland Trail

With every turn, the Wonderland Trail reveals glaciers, cascading waterfalls, sub-alpine meadows, lush stands of temperate rainforest, rivers, lakes, canyons, all set to an expansive backdrop of Washington and the ever-changing profile of Mount Rainier. No two corners of Mount Rainier seem all that alike, and as the hiker passes through each day on the Wonderland Trail, each day will be remembered uniquely as a hike to someplace different.

The Wonderland Trail explores the glacial valleys and volcanic ridges fanning outward from Mount Rainier. When the trail is not climbing one ridge, it is descending into the next valley. The ascents and descents make it a challenging hike that will test your strength, endurance, and the construction quality of your hiking boots.


The Wonderland Trail - Quick facts

Distance
93 Miles (150 km)
Time to hike
9-13 days
Elevation gain/loss
23,000 feet (7,010 m)
Hiking Season
Summer and early Fall

Overview of the Wonderland Trail

What to expect

The Wonderland Trail measures in somewhere around 93 miles. A number of side hikes along the way will tempt more miles from you. Most people hike the entire trail in about ten days, and the Park Service allows up to fourteen days to complete the trail.

At its high point, the Wonderland Trail passes over Panhandle Gap, just shy of 6,800 feet. Its lowest point is in the old growth rain forest along Ipsut Creek at 2,450 feet. Circumnavigating the mountain, you'll balance your elevation gains and losses somewhere around 23,000 feet.

Wilderness camping

There are eighteen wilderness campgrounds along the route, each with a pit toilet, anti-bear food storage (typically a pole or cable to hang a stuff-sack), and a nearby water source (most often a stream or a lake). Wilderness camps have two to eight standard campsites restricted to two tents each. Fifteen of the wilderness campgrounds have a group site, allowing more than two tents. Due to limited numbers of backcountry permits issued, the campgrounds are nearly always at capacity throughout the summer. For more info on wilderness camping, see designing an itinerary and getting a permit.

Caching food

There are several convenient locations along the Wonderland Trail for storing food caches with the Park Service. Food caches can be mailed or delivered in person. You can learn more about this in the caching food section.

Permits required

Wilderness camping permits are required for anyone staying overnight in the backcountry. Like many great American trails, permits are in high demand. The Park Service accepts applications from March 15th to April 1st. In April, they hold a lottery to assign reservations. If you miss this window, your chance of getting a permit for the entire Wonderland Trail is slim to none. For 2016, a software problem caused the Park Service to cancel their reservation program for the season. All 2016 permits will be by their walk-in system only. For more info, see getting a permit.

The weather

Mount Rainier National Park gets heavy precipitation. The trail is buried by snow in some places until late July. This is when the main hiking season starts. This is also the time of year when the trail crews finish repairs and bridge installations. Some of the Wonderland Trail's streams and rivers are difficult to cross earlier in the year during the spring snowmelt. You can read more about the weather in when to go.

When to go

The main hiking season is from late July to the middle of September. This is the warmest part of the year here, and when the mountain sees the least precipitation. The density of hikers tends to thin following Labor Day.

Usually after the middle of September, heavy precipitation returns to the Northwest. In the park, the roads to the high elevation trailheads close after the first snow. As autumn progresses, the snow line descends the slopes as the temperature drops. Soon after, thick snow blankets the mountain for another winter. Learn more about when to go here.

Get the most comprehensive guide available to the Wonderland Trail
Like this free web guide? It's a sample of our new book.
Get the backpacker’s field companion to Mount Rainier’s famous 93 mile loop trail. It's current for 2016 and is loaded with gorgeous photos and fascinating facts. This version is built exclusively for the iPad and iPhone.
The Wonderland Trail Guide, now available on iTunes
  • Full details on planning every aspect of your trip
  • Advice on preparing physically for the trip
  • Trail notes for the entire Wonderland Trail
  • Reference maps and elevation profiles
  • Includes 18 side-hikes with maps
  • Notes on geology, ecology, wildlife, and human history of Mount Rainier

Get other recommended books and maps

Hikin the Wonderland Trail: The Complete Guide to Mount Rainier's Premier Trail Hiking the Wonderland Trail: The Complete Guide to Mount Rainier's Premier Trail

An enjoyable and informative read by veteran trail writer Tami Asars. Available in print and for Kindle.

National Geographic MRNP Map 217 National Geographic MRNP Map 217

This laminated map will hold up for years and is one of the best available hiking maps for Mount Rainier National Park.

Green Trails Mount Rainier Wonderland Map 269S Green Trails Mount Rainier Wonderland Map 269S

Features GPS waypoints, an elevation profile of the Wonderland Trail, and a climbing map of the mountain.


Planning your trip on the Wonderland Trail

When to hike the Wonderland Trail

In a typical year, the Wonderland Trail is accessible from late July to the end of September. These months are when most people hike the entire trail. The table below provides a summary of how conditions change throughout the normal hiking season.

Season Late July to Early August Mid August to early September Mid September to October
Trail conditions Good, few repairs left, muddy and snowy in places Great shape, all repairs complete Best shape, dry
Snow on ground Snow hiking at higher elevations A few patches remain at higher elevations Little to none
Rivers Bridges in place most years. Without bridges, some rivers can be hard to cross All bridges in place. Water levels dropping All bridges in place. Rivers at lowest flow for the year until rains arrive
Wildflowers Best Fading, but still good at higher elevations Mostly gone, but a few patches remain in certain microclimates
Insects Peak populations Dense in places Fewest of season
Weather Mild but can get hot and humid in places, nights range from mild to cold.* Daytime highs milder than earlier, nights mostly mild.* Mild days, low humidity, cold nights, rain/snow becoming increasingly likely.*

* Always expect bad weather, regardless of the season. It is rare to see ten days at Mount Rainier without at least some rain, even at the peak of hiking season.

Washington Trails Associations Volunteers repair trails at Mount Rainier National Park.
WTA volunteers make trail repairs in late June. Many years it can take until late July for repairs to be complete on the WT.
Image courtesy Mount Rainier National Park (CC BY 2.0)

If you jump the gun and hike too early in the summer, you will face difficulties and dangers. You could see challenges from navigation, river crossings, rain, snow and blow-downs. A few weeks later, Mount Rainier's sudden summer can be full effect, the weather balmy, and the trail in good repair. It can be like night and day. Most people will be happiest waiting for the normal hiking season of late July to the middle of September.

It is best to check the snow levels in early March before you apply for your reservation. If snowpack is higher than average in March, beware of making plans too early. If it's been a dry winter, you might be able to hit the trails earlier than usual with respect to snow, but there is no guarantee the weather will be good. You best bet will be to wait for the normal hiking season of late July to the middle of September.

Late July to Early August

Late July is the earliest the Park Service recommends hiking the trail. Depending on the previous winter and spring, you may still end up hiking on snow at higher elevations. Snow hiking is slower and more of a challenge. You’ll want to give yourself more time to hike the higher elevation stretches of trail.

The Wonderland Trail under snow above Indian Bar in early July
In late July snow can still cover higher elevation stretches of the Wonderland Trail.

The optional Spray Park route can be difficult early in the season. Most hikers are happier sticking to the trail through Ipsut Pass when there is still snow on the ground at Spray Park.

Tip: Hiking poles can help you to keep your balance on snow. High-top boots and gaiters will help to keep your feet dry when the snow gets deeper.

When the snow melts back from the subalpine meadows, the wildflowers explode almost overnight. It is a dazzling sight. The subalpine lakes will be brimming with snowmelt. When the wind is calm, some lakes offer exquisite reflections of the volcano.

Wildflower meadow near Paradise on Mount Rainier
Wildflower meadows near Paradise at the beginning of the hiking season.

This is also when mosquito and fly populations peak. The mosquitoes and biting flies can test your sanity. Don’t forget the insect repellent. Long sleeves, collared shirts and pants will help cut down on the number of meals you donate.

If you use a tarp instead of a tent, you might appreciate using a mosquito mesh insert for protection.

Mid August to Labor Day (early September)

From the middle of August to Labor Day, the trail sees big crowds and for good reason. The trails will be in good shape, bridges in place, and inclement weather the least likely (but still possible). The snow melts from higher elevation destinations like Spray Park and Panhandle Gap, making these easier for hiking.

Spray Park in early September.
The tail-end of the wildflowers in Spray Park, early September.

The wildflowers start fading out from their grandest displays and diminish at lower elevations. Depending on the year's snowpack, at higher elevations patches of wildflowers can still be in full bloom.

Labor Day to early October

Labor Day weekend sees a big bang of visitors, and overnight the crowds start dwindling as the new school year begins. The trail conditions are rarely better than this time of the year. The snow is gone, muddy sections of trail have dried out, and rivers occupy just a fraction of their former channels.

Gone too are many of the wildflowers. Many of the smaller subalpine lakes shrink back, and smaller streams can vanish.

The weather can be hit and miss, but when it's sunny, this time of year offers the most comfortable hiking. The nights start getting colder and you may want a three-season sleeping bag. The frost on your rainfly means that the mosquito and fly populations vanish from the annoyance radar.

North Puyallup Valley at Mount Rainier National Park
Late season hiking can be comfortable when the weather is good, but autumn rains can arrive anytime.

Some years the atmospheric river of the Pacific Jet Stream starts drenching the Cascades from now until the next summer. Other years, dry weather can stretch deep into autumn, offering some of the most comfortable backcountry conditions possible.

When the first snows come or mid-October arrives, the Park Service closes the Mowich Lake and Sunrise Roads for the winter. After these closures, you won't be able to use those trailheads, or their ranger stations for storing food caches.

As the autumn progresses, the days grow shorter and the nights longer. The chance of severe weather grows with each day. When the autumn storms arrive, Mount Rainier’s backcountry is not a good place for the living. While you should always be prepared to face bad weather regardless of the time of year, expect a greater chance of sideways rain and snow in the autumn. Always be prepared to stop and set up a shelter if necessary. Rivers can surge in hours, trees can blow down in high winds, and whiteout conditions can sometimes hit higher elevations.


How to get a permit for the Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is one of the premier backpacking trails in the Pacific Northwest. There are more hikers itching to hit the trail than there are wilderness campsites to hold them.

Alert: MRNP cancels all 2016 reservations

Mount Rainier National Park has canceled its traditional wilderness permit reservation system for 2016. The Park Service is blaming a recent power outage on corrupting aging software used in the reservation system. The Park Service is partnering with the University of Washington to build new reservation software, but it will not be ready for use until at least March 2017.

This will be a shock and disappointment for most hikers hoping to complete the Wonderland Trail in 2016. Since March 15, over 2,000 reservation requests have been received by the Park Service. It appears that this year was headed for a new record in the volume of reservation requests made. The Park Service has not yet processed reservation fees, and these will be returned to the senders.

For 2016, all wilderness permits for the Wonderland Trail and other backcountry hikes in the park will be issued only through their walk-in permit system.

Walk-in permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. They are issued no earlier than the day before your trip starts and can only be obtained in person at the wilderness information centers at Longmire and White River (open 7:30 AM to 5 PM daily) or the Carbon River Ranger Station (call 360-829-9639 for hours). There is no fee for walk-in permits.

For more information you can read the Park's official statement here. For more details on obtaining a walk-in permit, refer to the Park Service’s latest instructions here.

Smaller trips and day hiking the Wonderland Trail

If you can't get a reservation it's still possible to visit many stretches of the Wonderland Trail. You do not need a permit to day hike, and there are access points to the trail all around the park.

You can stay in car campgrounds or lodging in or near the park.

It's easier to get a walk-in permit for a single night than a longer trip, so you may still have the opportunity of visiting a few destinations beyond a half-day's walk. Read more about section hiking the Wonderland Trail here.

Mount Rainier from Tolmie Peak
Mount Rainier from the Tolmie Peak fire lookout. Reached by a way-trail from the Wonderland Trail near Mowich Lake, this makes a great day hiking destination.

Even if you're day hiking, always be prepared to survive overnight in the cold and wet should something go wrong. Mountain weather can change fast, hypothermia can be disorienting and deadly, and day hikers sometimes go missing until spring.


Designing your itinerary

Trip length

The average hiker makes it around the mountain in ten days, but the Park Service allows up to fourteen days to hike the trail. If you consider yourself less fit than the average backpacker, you may want an extra day or two. If you're a seasoned thru-hiker you might prefer more miles each day, and I'm sure you know your limits. Do note that the frequent ups and downs of the trail can be tough going.

Where to start

Longmire is the most popular starting point for the Wonderland Trail and Sunrise/White River is a close second. The rest of this chapter looks at the different trailheads, and what to consider when choosing where to start your trip.

Map showing the major trailheads of the Wonderland Trail

Food cache locations

The ability to store a food cache or two will significantly reduce your pack weight. During the main hiking season you can store food caches at Longmire, Mowich Lake and Sunrise (or nearby White River). Longmire, Mowich Lake, and Sunrise/White River are spaced roughly in thirds around the mountain. It's common to use one of these choices as a trailhead and the other two for caching food. This way you never have to carry more than three or four days of food.

The roads to Sunrise and Mowich Lake can open late and close early in the hiking season. Do not plan on using these locations for trailheads or food caches before late July or after the middle of September. You can substitute White River for Sunrise, but there is no good alternate cache location for Mowich Lake.

Driving times

Longmire, Sunrise and Mowich Lake have similar driving times heading south from Seattle. It takes about two and a half hours. Of these trailheads, the drive to Longmire has the easiest roads (even though it's the greatest distance to Seattle). Longmire is also the closest trailhead if you're driving north from Portland (also about 2.5 hours).

Longmire

Longmire is the most popular trailhead for the Wonderland Trail. This is one of the busiest places in the park with many services and a hotel. There's plenty of parking and law enforcement patrols to keep an eye on the lots. There is also nearby car camping at Cougar Rock Campground.

Longmire is accessible from the main Nisqually entrance on the south side of the park.

Lastly, Longmire makes a good starting point because there are nearby backcountry camps in both directions. This is useful when you need to travel to the park on the day of your hike.

Sunrise and White River

During the peak season, Sunrise and the nearby White River are popular trailheads as well. There is car camping at White River and ample parking at Sunrise. As long as parking is available, starting at White River can save you the 40 minute drive up the hill to Sunrise. It takes nearly as long to make the drive as it does to take a straight shot on foot down the trail.

Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park, viewed from Sourdough Ridge
Sunrise Visitor Center - White River Campground is located at the valley bottom beyond.

The downside to starting at Sunrise is that hiking clockwise, the first backcountry camp is about ten miles away at Summerland. More than a few hikers have been caught in the dark when making the final climb to Sunrise. You may want to spend your first night at the White River front-country camp, so you can fit in a full day of hiking.

If you're headed clockwise, starting from White River instead will also shave an hour of hiking off your first day.

If you travel counterclockwise from Sunrise, Granite Creek makes a good first destination for a shorter day (about 5.3 miles).

Mowich Lake

There aren't many strong arguments for starting your trip at Mowich Lake. The road can open late in the season and close early. The road is rough to here, and it is not the most pleasant of drives. There are no services at Mowich Lake besides pit toilets and a small campground.

Panorama of Mowich Lake in Mount Rainier National Park photographed in infrared.
Mowich Lake, a glacial cirque is the largest and deepest lake in MRNP with a surface area of 120 acres and a max depth of 90 feet.

Going clockwise from Mowich Lake you can take either the Spray Park trail or the Ipsut Pass (Wonderland) trail to Carbon River. If taking Spray Park, Eagle's Roost camp, 1.8 miles from Mowich Lake can be a good target for a short first day.

Traveling counterclockwise, the camp at South Mowich River can be reached in about 3.5 fast miles.

Minor trailheads

Minor trailheads include Fryingpan Creek, Box Canyon, and Reflection Lakes. Of these, Box Canyon is perhaps the trailhead of most interest to hikers doing the entire trail. Box Canyon is the closest drive from Yakima. Starting here also allows you to place a third food cache at Longmire, shaving some weight from the beginning and end of the hike.

Box Canyon

Of these, Box Canyon is perhaps the one of most interest to hikers doing the entire trail. Box Canyon is the closest to drive from Yakima. Starting here also allows you to place a third food cache at Longmire, shaving some weight from the beginning and end of the hike.

Besides a restroom, there are no services at Box Canyon.

Ipsut Creek - useful for early or late in the season

The last trailhead worth mentioning is not actually on the Wonderland Trail. It is useful only for when the road to Mowich Lake is closed because it lets you take advantage of two food caches along the trail.

The last trailhead worth mentioning is not on the Wonderland Trail and requires some extra foot work. It is useful only for when the road to Mowich Lake is closed because it lets you take advantage of two food caches along the trail. Carbon River entrance station serves the northwest corner of the park. Just beyond, the Carbon River Road once went all the way to a large car campground at Ipsut Creek, just off the Wonderland Trail. In 2006 a massive winter storm washed out the Carbon River Road, and it may never see repairs. From the washout, it's an easy ~5 mile walk along the old road to the Ipsut Creek campground.

If you use the Carbon River Road as your starting point for the Wonderland Trail, you can place a food cache at the White River ranger station and another at Longmire. Again, this is only useful when the road to Mowich Lake is closed.

Clockwise or counter? Choosing a direction to hike

Many backpackers choose the traditional route of clockwise. Other guidebooks state this direction is easier but don’t back this up with any good arguments. Looking at elevation profiles and hiking the trail, I've never learned of nor have I experienced any disadvantage to traveling counterclockwise. Both directions offer great views and both directions lead back to the place you start.

When choosing which direction to hike, the most important consideration is if it’s a reasonable walking distance to the first camp in case you also have to drive to the park that day.

Building your itinerary

This used to be a bit of a chore, so I built a custom itinerary planner for the Wonderland Trail. I hope you find it useful. I've designed it to let you consider your elevation gains and losses for each day. Just choose your trailheads and hiking direction, and the number of days you have. The program will try to select evenly spaced camps, and then allow you to adjust any day you wish.

Wonderland Trail Elevation Profile

Longmire

2700 ft 858 m

Pyramid Creek

3765 ft 1148 m

Devil's Dream

5060 ft 1542 m

South Puyallup River

4000 ft 1219 m

Klapatche Park

5515 ft 1681 m

North Puyallup River

3750 ft 1143 m

Golden Lakes

5130 ft 1564 m

South Mowich River

2605 ft 794 m

Mowich Lake

4929 ft 1502 m

Ipsut Creek Campground

2300 ft 701 m

Carbon River

3195 ft 974 m

Dick Creek

4185 ft 1276 m

Mystic Lake

5570 ft 1698 m

Granite Creek

5765 ft 1756 m

Sunrise Visitor's Center

6400 ft 1951 m

Sunrise Camp

6245 ft 1903 m

White River Campground

4300 ft 1310 m

Fryingpan Creek Trailhead

3800 ft 1158 m

Summerland

5940 ft 1811 m

Indian Bar

5120 ft 1561 m

Nickel Creek

3385 ft 1032 m

Maple Creek

2815 ft 858 m

Box Canyon Trailhead

3300 ft 1006 m

Reflection Lakes Trailhead

4850 ft 1478 m

Paradise River

3805 ft 1160 m

Longmire

2700 ft 858 m

When filling out your permit request form, it's good to include a few alternate itineraries in case your first choice does not work.

Wilderness permits with weekend start dates are the highest in demand. To better your odds of getting a permit, apply to start from Monday to Thursday.


Getting to the trail

By air

Mount Rainier National Park is about 2 hours from Seatac International Airport (SEA) and 3 hours from Portland International (PDX).

Getting to the park from either airport will be a challenge without renting a car. Shuttle Express (1 435 981-7000) offers taxi services to the park, but it may be more affordable (and more convenient) to arrange a car rental.

Getting a wilderness backpack through baggage handling unscathed can be a challenge given all the straps. If you go ultralight, you might be able to squeeze your pack in as a carry-on. Otherwise, it's best to buy a cheap duffle bag that can fit your backpack.

By Car

Most trailheads to the Wonderland Trail are with 2-3 hours of Seattle, Portland and Yakima. Early and late in the season some of the roads may close. The road to Longmire is typically open year-round.

Get directions from Google Maps

Hitchhiking

The park banned hitchhiking before it even allowed women to drive in the park. Don't plan on being able to catch a ride by having your girlfriend wave at cars while you hide in the bushes. If you somehow get stranded somewhere in the park, there's no law against being friendly and asking for rides from strangers at tourist stops. Look for people who have bumper stickers of multicolored, dancing teddy bears.

Ride shares

Don't count on it, but you might have luck finding a ride share on your local Craigslist ride share forum. You are also welcome to post a message at this forum.


Caching food on the Wonderland Trail

You can cache food on the Wonderland Trail at these locations:

  • Longmire Wilderness Information Center
  • Sunrise Visitor's Center
  • White River Campground
  • Mowich Lake Patrol Cabin


Map showing food cache locations along the Wonderland Trail encircling Mount Rainier

Sunrise is a three mile walk (roughly  +2000 feet in elevation) up the ridge from the White River Campground. The road to Sunrise opens usually by mid July and closes shortly after Labor Day (early September). Use White River Campground instead of Sunrise early or late in the season.

The road to Mowich Lake opens most years by mid July and closes sometime in September (or when the first snows arrive). When the road is closed, you cannot use this as a food cache location. There is no convenient alternative for caching food in this corner of the park.

Food caches can be dropped-off at the above locations in person. They can also be mailed.

Packaging your food cache

Food caches need to be in hard plastic, rodent-proof containers. A utility bucket with a securely attached lid works well for this.

Caching fuel

Sending fuel in your food cache is prohibited. If you want to cache fuel, you must deliver it in person to the wilderness information center at Longmire, or to one of the food cache containers at Sunrise, White River Campground, or the Mowich Lake patrol cabin.

The park service accumulates surplus fuel throughout the season and states the following: "As the season progresses we often have a surplus of white gas (and some canister fuel). We are happy to give you the fuel for free if we have it."

Fuel and general supplies may also be available to purchase at the general store at Longmire or the day-use lodge at Sunrise. It's best to phone ahead to see if they'll have what you need in stock. You can get in touch by calling Rainier Guest Services (the consessioner for MRNP) at (360) 569-2275.

Shipping your food cache

If shipping a food cache, the Park Service states the delivery date should be at least two weeks before the date you plan to pick it up. From the ship-to locations, the Park Service manually transports food caches up to Mowich Lake and to Sunrise or White River, and they may not make this trip every day. If you procrastinate on mailing your cache you may find yourself without it when you need it.

Also, the Park Service will not hand deliver food caches around the park. In other words, you can't drop a food cache for Mowich Lake off at Longmire or vice versa.  Send a food cache to the address that corresponds to where you need to pick it up.

Since the park may update their instructions after this has been published, always reference their latest instructions before shipping a food cache.

Mail food caches to the following addresses:

Label every food cache with the name of the permit holder, the permit number, the location the cache will be picked up, and the date the cache will be picked up. Send caches to the address corresponding to your desired pickup location.

Longmire (UPS or FedEx only)
ATTN: Longmire WIC
Longmire Warehouse
Longmire, WA 98397
Sunrise or White River (USPS, UPS, or FedEx)
(Indicate pickup location on container)
Mount Rainier National Park
White River WIC
70002 SR 410 East
Enumclaw, WA 98022
Mowich Lake (UPS or FedEx only)
Mount Rainier National Park
Carbon River Ranger Station
35415 Fairfax Forest Reserve Road East
Carbonado, WA 98323
Mowich Lake (USPS only)
Mount Rainier National Park
Carbon River Ranger Station
P.O. Box 423
Wilkeson, WA 98396

Services in and near Mount Rainier Naitonal Park

Car camping in the park

There are four front-country car campgrounds in Mount Rainier National Park. The reservation system is handled separately for these campgrounds than for wilderness permits. All front-country camping in the park must be in one of these campgrounds, and sleeping in your vehicle is prohibited outside these locations.

White River Campground at Mount Rainier National Park
The White River front-country camp in the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park

Please do not bring firewood to the park since this spreads invasive species that can devastate forests. Local firewood is available for purchase at the Longmire General Store, Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh and White River Campgrounds.

Cougar Rock Campground
(SW section of park)

Elevation: 3,180 ft, Individual sites: 173, Group sites: 5, Season: Late May to late September, Standard site fee: $20, Group site fee: $60

Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, dump station and fire grates

Located within walking distance of Longmire, Cougar Rock Campground makes a good place to spend the night before or after a backpacking trip starting from Longmire. You can make reservations on Recreation.gov. Cougar Rock can accommodate RVs up to 35ft in length, and trailers up to 27ft.

White River Campground
(NE section of park)

Elevation: 4,400 ft, Individual sites: 112, Group sites: 0, Season: Late May to late September, Standard site fee: $20

Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets and fire grates

Just down the hill from Sunrise, White River makes a good place to spend the night before or after a backpacking trip starting from here or Sunrise. As of February 2016, you cannot make reservations for the White River Campground. It can accommodate RVs up to 27ft in length, and trailers up to 18ft.

Mowich Lake
(NW section of park)

Elevation: 4,929 ft, Individual sites: 10, Group sites: 3, Season: Early July to early October, Fee: free

Amenities: Pit toilets

Mowich Lake has 10 primitive walk-in tent sites. It is shared with backpackers on the Wonderland Trail and fills quickly. There is no potable water here and fires are not allowed. It is not the nicest campground in the park since it affords little privacy, but it's a convenient place to spend the night before starting a trip on the Wonderland Trail from here.

Ohanapecosh Campground
(SE section of park)

Elevation: 1,914 ft, Individual sites: 188, Group sites: 2, Season: Late May to late September, Standard site fee: $20, Group site fee: $60

Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, dump station and fire grates

The largest car campground in Mount Rainier National Park, Ohanapecosh Campground is the furthest from the Wonderland Trail. The closest trailhead is a 25 minute drive away at the Box Canyon overlook. It can accommodate RVs up to 32ft in length, and trailers up to 27ft. It may be most useful for visitors driving to the park from Yakima. You can book a site at Recreation.gov.


Lodging in the Park

Hotel accommodations in the park are limited to the Paradise Inn and the nearby National Park Inn at Longmire.

Paradise Inn

The Paradise Inn opens May 20 and closes after Labor Day. The 2016 rates for standard rooms are estimated to be between $122 and $192. Larger suites are available for more.

For reservations call (360) 569-2275 or (855) 755-2275.

National Park Inn

Open year-round the National Park Inn is located in Longmire Village. It can be a convenient place to stay before or after a trip on the nearby Wonderland Trail.

Standard room rates for 2016 are estimated to be $120-160 for a room without a private bathroom, and $176-218 for a room with a private bath. Two room units are available for $263.

For reservations call (360) 569-2275 or (855) 755-2275.

Lodging outside of the park

There are ample opportunities for hotel accommodations outside of the park. Use a hotel booking site like Priceline, Expedia, or Orbitz for lodging near one of the following locations. You can also find many private cabins nearby on Airbnb.

Near the Longmire Entrance (SW corner of park, listed closest to furthest)

  • Ashford
  • Elbe
  • Eatonville

Near the Sunrise/White River entrance (NE corner of park, listed closest to furthest)

  • Greenwater
  • Enumclaw

Near the Carbon River (Mowich Lake) entrance (NW corner of park, listed closest to furthest)

  • Buckley
  • Enumclaw
  • Puyallup

Gas

Gas is not available anywhere in the national park. The drive can be long, winding (and steep) from one side of the park to another, and even your little hybrid will be guzzling the gas on the hills. It's easy to run low on gas in the park. Expect to get your vehicle's worst fuel economy, and top off at one of these gas stations (Google Maps) before entering the park.

Last chances to buy gas:
  • National Park Highway 706 (SW corner of park): Ashford
  • Highway 12 (S-SE corner of park): Packwood
  • Highway 410 (From Yakima, NE corner of park): Cliffdell
  • Highway 410 (From I-5 corridor, NW corner of park): Enumclaw
  • Highway 165 (NW corner of park, road to Mowich Lake): Buckley

Groceries and Supplies

General supplies and limited groceries are available from the Longmire General Store and the gift shop at Sunrise. For anything more than a snack and a postcard, you'll need to visit one of the communities surrounding the park. Groceries can be found at Ashford, Elbe, Packwood, and Enumclaw.

Backpacking equipment

A few essentials may be found at the Longmire General Store. Toward the end of the hiking season the Wilderness Information Center at Longmire sometimes has surplus fuel they can give you.

For something serious like a replacement for a forgotten water filter, you'll need to head out of the park. On the south side of the mountain, there is Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford. On the north side of the mountain, you'll need to drive to the Puyallup and Tacoma area. Sportsman's Warehouse is the closest big outdoor retailer, located at 120 31st Ave SE, Puyallup, WA 98374. It's next to a Walmart that also has a sizable sporting goods department. The nearest REI is twenty minutes further in Tacoma and is located at 3825 S Steele St, Tacoma, WA 98409.


Cell Coverage

Cell coverage in the park doesn't exist. As of 2016, only one carrier (Verizon) offers coverage in Ashford. On Highway 410 near the NE corner of the park, Crystal Mountain has limited coverage. On Highway 12, Morton and Packwood have fairly good coverage.

Wi-Fi

There is no wi-fi available in the park. Below is a list of the closest free wi-fi locations.

SW corner of park

The Copper Creek Inn and BaseCamp Bar & Grill in Ashford both offer free wi-fi.

NW corner of park

Enumclaw has good cell (4G) coverage. You can also find wi-fi hotspots at local businesses across town as well as the public library.

NE corner of park

Crystal Mountain Resort is about a 30 minute drive from White River Campground and offers free wi-fi.


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