August 8-12, 2021: Wonderland Trail

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.

About to start

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.

Fire plumes from the Naches fire to the East

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.

Smoke plumes from the Packwood fire to the southeast. Anxiety level getting higher. 5 miles left. So many bugs,

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.

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