By Michael Lanza

There are many good reasons the 93-mile Wonderland Trail encircling Washington’s Mount Rainier ranks among the most popular backpacking trips in the country. And yet, backpackers who’ve never attempted this loop around the third-highest peak in the Lower 48 may have questions about what it’s like. If you have not hiked all or part of the Wonderland Trail, read on to learn more about why you should—and perhaps learn some myth-busting truths about this iconic and challenging trail.

The Wonderland Trail certainly belongs on any list of America’s best backpacking trips—and I say that having hiked most of the best (some of them multiple times) over the past three decades, including many years running this blog and previously the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years. That’s because the Wonderland possesses nearly all of the qualities that make for a great multi-day hike—most conspicuously the countless views, from all angles, of the most heavily glaciated peak in the Lower 48, 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, a sight that inspires beyond all expectations.

In fact, at the end of my most-recent trip there, a 77-mile hike on most of the Wonderland Trail, two friends and I—all of us very experienced and widely traveled backpackers—concurred that we had come to Rainier with high expectations for the Wonderland, and the trail exceeded them. That’s high praise.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Todd Arndt backpacking the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. Click photo to get my help planning your Wonderland Trail hike.
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