On a whim, we decided to speed pack the Wonderland Trail while I had time off from teaching. This would be our third time completing the trail, and we regularly backpack and run large sections. We know the trail well and were prepared for long days.
I tried to get a walk-up permit the day before our trip, but I wasn’t successful in getting a campsite on the east side of the park. We decided to pay for a drive-up campsite at White River. We dropped off a large bug net and tent, and put lots of food in the bear locker. After backpacking the first 3/4 of the trail, we would run the last day to our car at Box Canyon. Friends stayed at the campsite while we didn’t use it.
Day 1: Box Canyon to Pyramid Creek- 15 miles & 4,100’ gain
Weather: 60 degrees, overcast and showers
Terrain: Low elevation hiking through the south side of the park. River beds, erosion, old growth forests and thick vegetation. Multiple road crossings. Crowded, as the trail intersects with shorter day hikes.
The south side of the park is the least exciting, crossing the road multiple times and generally staying low in the muggy Steven’s Canyon. We wanted to get this day done first as it feels like an approach to the good stuff.
Day 2: Pyramid Creek to North Puyallup River- 16.5 miles & 5,400’ gain
Weather: 70 degrees, cloudy with sun breaks
Terrain: Old Growth forests, talus and rock fields, thick vegetation, and meadows.
Highly anticipated visit to the west side- highlights include Emerald Ridge and Klapatche Park.
Day 3: North Puyallup River to Ipsut Creek- 20.7 miles & 5,100’ gain
Weather: 80 degrees, cloudy in the morning becoming mostly sunny
Terrain: old growth forests, dry meadows, river beds and talus fields, thick vegetation and rain forest. West side of park
Another day on the west side, ascending though thick forests to get to the beautiful Sunset Park and Golden Lakes area.
This day was challenging because it descends more than 5,000 feet. Traveling downhill is tough. I bonked 3 miles from the campsite. I regained my spirits when we made it to Ipsut Falls.
Day 4: Ipsut Creek to White River- 19.5 miles & 6,500’ gain
Weather: 80 degrees and sunny
Terrain: River beds, old growth forests, rock scrambling (off-trail), open talus fields
The north side of the park is spectacular! Highlights include hiking along the Carbon Glacier, Moraine Park, and Mystic Lake.
Between Granite Creek and White River, we decided to take an off-trail scramble route through the Skyscraper-Burroughs traverse. We then descended to White River via Burroughs Mountain Trail and Glacier Basin.
Day 5: White River to Box Canyon- 18.8 miles and 4,400’ gain
Weather: 90 degrees and smoke
Terrain: Old Growth forests, meadows, rock and talus fields
We got to run our favorite part of the park, through Summerland, Panhandle Gap, Ohanapecosh Park, and Cowlitz Divide! But we felt anxious the entire day as the park became enveloped in smoke from surrounding fires.
We made it out right before the state-wide heat wave. Phew!
Wonderland Trail Totals
Total Elapsed Time: 5 days
Total Distance: 90 miles
Total Gain: 24,340 feet
Pack weight: (besides our feather-light running day): 25 pounds
Footwear: Trail Runners, running gators, and poles
Breakfast: Instant coffee (we like Alpine Start the best), granola with açaí berries and nuts, powdered soy milk
Snacks: nuts, dried berries, sour gummies, Cliff Bars, Sweet-n-Salty bars, and Bloks
Lunch: Pouch tuna, Keebler’s crackers, Olives, and Trader Joe’s Cheese Bites
Dinner: Andrew’s homemade dehydrated meals (mushroom fried rice, or spaghetti with beans), dehydrated veggies, chocolate, tea, and cookies.