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  1. #1
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Default Wonderland Question

    Question for those that have been there before....is the experience similar to say hiking in and around Yosemite with regard to crowds and such?

    I was denied a permit, but think I've got an itinerary and timeframe that could get me onto the trail via walkup. It would involve some nights at the bigger front country campgrounds and I would just need to score a handful of backcountry camps to make it all work. I'd be going around mid-Sept as well. However, as I've been doing more research, it's starting to sound like Rainier is a giant tourist destination and I may not get much quiet backcountry time. So I'm starting to question if I want to go somewhere else this fall.

    I'd appreciate any insights you all may have. Thank You!
    "In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks"....John Muir

  2. #2
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    Haven't been to Yosemite yet (going this year) so can't compare them. You will see a lot of people on the trail although Sept should be a little slower. We hiked CCW and met a lot of people coming the other way every day. But I wouldn't say its crowded. Stopping and taking breaks, eating lunch, getting water, etc we were always alone. Lots of dayhikers on the weekend close to the big trailheads but once you get out of dayhiker range the permit system keeps it from being overcrowded.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    Question for those that have been there before....is the experience similar to say hiking in and around Yosemite with regard to crowds and such?

    I was denied a permit, but think I've got an itinerary and timeframe that could get me onto the trail via walkup. It would involve some nights at the bigger front country campgrounds and I would just need to score a handful of backcountry camps to make it all work. I'd be going around mid-Sept as well. However, as I've been doing more research, it's starting to sound like Rainier is a giant tourist destination and I may not get much quiet backcountry time. So I'm starting to question if I want to go somewhere else this fall.

    I'd appreciate any insights you all may have. Thank You!
    The Wonderland is different from Yosemite, but has similarities with any popular hike. There are significant crowds around the main road crossings, but you won't find crowds beyond 1/4 mile from a road. There are four trail heads where you will see lots of people. Longmire, Mirror Lakes, Sunrise and Mowich Lake. The Wonderland does not pass close to Paradise which is the primary destination of non-hiking visitors. On some days you will see quite a few day hikers between the Frying Pan Creek Trail head and Sunrise and on the Spray Park alternate route. Late July and August are the peak times for Mt. Rainier visitors, but September is my favorite time to hike the Wonderland.

    The crowding at Klapatche Park has increased in the last couple of years. It is the most beautiful camp site on the west side. It seems that lots of people have discovered that it can be accessed by riding a bike on the West Side Road (closed to motorized vehicles), then hiking in to Klapatche. It is hard to get reservations at Klapatche Park.

    If you are interested in a Cascade Mountains hike without crowds, consider hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It is just south of Mt. Rainier. No permit is required. The views are similar to the Wonderland views and there are fewer people.

    I have not yet visited Mt. Rainier this year (I moved to Kansas), but the NPS website indicates that most of the Wonderland is still under snow. Neither the Mowich Lake or the Sunrise roads are opened yet. Most of the camps are still under snow. When the roads on the north side of Mt. Rainier are late in opening, it usually means more visitors in July and August.
    Shutterbug

  4. #4
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Great insights guys...thank you very much!
    "In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks"....John Muir

  5. #5

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    If you can get a good walk-up itinerary, you won't be disappointed. If not, do what Shutterbug suggests and go to the Goat rocks (or William O Douglass) wilderness area just east of the national park. I'm planning (fire season permitting) to do a loop through the W.O. Douglass Wilderness this summer. Will report back.

    Either way, bring good rain gear and take plenty of time to enjoy your hike.
    Last edited by Feral Bill; 06-13-2018 at 14:02.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    Question for those that have been there before....is the experience similar to say hiking in and around Yosemite with regard to crowds and such?

    I was denied a permit, but think I've got an itinerary and timeframe that could get me onto the trail via walkup. It would involve some nights at the bigger front country campgrounds and I would just need to score a handful of backcountry camps to make it all work. I'd be going around mid-Sept as well. However, as I've been doing more research, it's starting to sound like Rainier is a giant tourist destination and I may not get much quiet backcountry time. So I'm starting to question if I want to go somewhere else this fall.

    I'd appreciate any insights you all may have. Thank You!
    You mentioned that you have an itinerary figured out that involves a series of "front country" and back country camps. I encourage you not to get locked in to a particular itinerary. It is good to consider all of the alternatives, but if you get focused on getting a specific itinerary you will probably fail to get it. It helps to know how the walkup system works.

    When you arrive at the Ranger Station, the computer monitor will show which camps are available for the next several days. As I recall, the monitor lists them in order in a clockwise direction but does not provide the distance between them. To know if it makes sense to hike from one camp to another you need to know the distance and changes in elevation. In other words, be sure to take a map with you.

    You will discover that certain camps are almost always full -- Indian Bar is rarely available because it has only 4 tent sites plus the group site. That means that your choices are: hike from Summerland to Nickle Creek (13 miles) or leave the Wonderland Trail to camp at Olallie Creek. It has also been my experience that Klapatche Park is fully booked. That makes selecting camps on the west side difficult.

    I am attaching map I use to select camps. It shows the distances between camps and the elevations. What is missing are the "alternate" camps that can be used if necessary: Olallie Camp, Snow Lake Camp, Eagle's Roost and Cataract Valley Camp.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by Shutterbug; 06-14-2018 at 10:32.
    Shutterbug

  7. #7
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    If I was going to try for a walkup the conversation would go something like: "I'd like to hike the trail over the next 6-9 days. Do whatever you have to do to get me a permit."

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by John M View Post
    If I was going to try for a walkup the conversation would go something like: "I'd like to hike the trail over the next 6-9 days. Do whatever you have to do to get me a permit."
    I’d go for 10-12 days, being old and lazy, but that’s the right idea.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by John M View Post
    If I was going to try for a walkup the conversation would go something like: "I'd like to hike the trail over the next 6-9 days. Do whatever you have to do to get me a permit."
    Not going to happen!! If you walkup and say "I'd like to hike the trail over 11 days." they will suggest a plan. If you say "6 to 9 days" you will have to figure out your own plan. Specifically, they are not going to suggest a plan that they think is aggressive. Their recommendation is to take 11 or more days. If you request a plan that takes 6 to 9 days, they will advise that the plan is aggressive but will still make the reservation for you. They will never suggest such a plan.

    It is understandable that they won't take the initiative in suggesting an aggressive plan. If you have to be rescued, they don't want you to say, "The ranger said I could do 16 miles a day."

    This is what the NPS web site says, "Perhaps the biggest aspect in planning to hike the Wonderland Trail is you knowing your hiking skills, abilities and habits. Rangers cannot tell you that. Nobody knows your skill level better than you. This is important when laying the foundation for your trip... selecting the proper distance between campsites. Do you live and hike primarily in mountainous terrain and climates, or lower elevation areas? Hiking on flat terrain for 93 miles is far easier than having to climb up three thousand feet with a full pack day, after day, after day. This sounds like something that should not have to be stated, but we often see hikers going beyond their skill level. This usually leads to injury, illness, misery and an early end to a long-planned trip."

    Shutterbug

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    Iím convinced we got drawn last year because I put on my application that we were willing to do high milage Days. Also when we picked up our permit I requested a change to add Indian Bar to our itinerary and specified that we were ok with up to 20 Miles/day. They cheerfully accommodated us.

  11. #11
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    I'm definitely not locked into any itinerary. I was just thinking if I utilize the bigger frontcountry camps, that it would up my odds since I'd then require fewer backcountry camps. But the plan is to definitely just see what is available and go from there.
    "In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks"....John Muir

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    I'm definitely not locked into any itinerary. I was just thinking if I utilize the bigger frontcountry camps, that it would up my odds since I'd then require fewer backcountry camps. But the plan is to definitely just see what is available and go from there.
    Looks good. I'd steer clear of 20, or even 15 mile days. Of course, if you enjoy pushing yourself, it's an option.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  13. #13
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    My two experiences getting walk-in permits for the WT were positive. Both times, the rangers were very willing to give me the long days I asked for. I commented about that the first time, when I hiked the loop in four days, and the ranger shrugged, said, "Heck we get people doing it in two." Many other NPs aren't like that at all, notably Glacier and Grand Canyon in my experience.

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    Sometime they need to be tough. We were at the Rangers station on the North Rim GCNP and overheard a ranger trying to explain to two guests that no, they could not leave now (10 AM), hike to bottom of the canyon, go swimming in the river, and be back in time for supper.

  15. #15
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    Sometime they need to be tough. We were at the Rangers station on the North Rim GCNP and overheard a ranger trying to explain to two guests that no, they could not leave now (10 AM), hike to bottom of the canyon, go swimming in the river, and be back in time for supper.
    Wouldn't surprise me if this conversation took place in June or July.
    "In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks"....John Muir

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    Everything Shutterbug said! This is most important for walk ups: You mentioned that you have an itinerary figured out that involves a series of "front country" and back country camps. I encourage you not to get locked in to a particular itinerary. It is good to consider all of the alternatives, but if you get focused on getting a specific itinerary you will probably fail to get it. It helps to know how the walkup system works.


    Early fall after Labor Day not attempting to get a thurs- sat starting time permit is a big help for walk ups. https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvis...ess-permit.htm Watch the vid on how to better score a WT permit.



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    Sometimes WT thrus expect daily somewhat equal mileage between camps. That's something NOT to do in getting walk ups.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Sometimes WT thrus expect daily somewhat equal mileage between camps. That's something NOT to do in getting walk ups.
    I found the one short day we got last time around was delightful. One or two of the longer days were just tolerable. This was the year the reservation system died, and they were really struggling to get people what they needed.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feral Bill View Post
    I found the one short day we got last time around was delightful. One or two of the longer days were just tolerable. This was the year the reservation system died, and they were really struggling to get people what they needed.
    Last year, I did the 18 mile hike from Golden Lakes to Devil's Dream. That is some of the most beautiful part of the trail -- Klapatche Park, Emerald Ridge and Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds. I would have enjoyed it more if I had broken it into two 9 mile days.
    Shutterbug

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shutterbug View Post
    Last year, I did the 18 mile hike from Golden Lakes to Devil's Dream. That is some of the most beautiful part of the trail -- Klapatche Park, Emerald Ridge and Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds. I would have enjoyed it more if I had broken it into two 9 mile days.
    Yikes! That's a lot of up and down.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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