Wonderland Trail from White River Campground to Sunrise

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We were up at the White River Campground a few weeks ago with our nephew who was visiting from out-of-town and thought, at that time, that we might hike the Wonderland Trail up to Sunrise.  A little too much snow to do it then, but we had seen a lot of melting in 2 weeks, so on Father’s Day, we decided it would be a fun adventure to try again.

What a difference 2 weeks make!  There was virtually no snow at the White River Campground (!!) and the Park had done a nice job marking the Wonderland Trail so we took off.  The first 1 1/2 miles were snow-free, through trees and over small streams.  In fact, the sound of water was everywhere, as the mountain melts out from its long winter’s nap.

We started to see small amounts of snow after a while (still easily hikable as it was soft) until we were hiking in complete snow probably by about 2 - 2 1/4 miles.  Gorgeous drifts left over from the winter, but still easily hikable and the trail was easy to follow by looking for orange diamonds on the trees.  We met some skiers about 3 miles up, who were on their way down after a couple of days of skiing at Sunrise, and decided to follow their more direct tracks up the mountain.  Not really the best of ideas as we ended up at the base of a gorgeous spring waterfall, and had to clamber up the snow to its side.

But just 15 minutes after that, we were rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier we’ve ever gotten.  The clouds parted just as we arrived at the top of the trail, and the mountain came out.  It was absolutely glorious!  There was no one else around and, in most cases, the only footprints in the snow were those of various small animals.  We decided to do a little more exploring, and hiked up a little further until we found orange markers for the service road.  In all honesty, the service road in the summer is fairly boring, but on this day, it was beautiful.  And we just kept getting better views of Mt. Rainier.

We actually hiked all the way up to the day lodge and visitors’ center to check things out, and also to see if the roads were plowed.  We found the roads and the parking lots clear, paving the way (no pun intended) for Sunrise to open!  In fact, Sunrise will open this Friday, July 1—just in time for the July 4th weekend.

Yes, there’s still a lot of snow, but in 14 years living out here, we’ve never been able to see Sunrise like this—and we know you’re going to love it.  You don’t even have to get out of your car to get an incredible view and the snow makes the mountain look like it’s wrapped in a blinding white coat. 

We can’t wait to drive up to Sunrise on July 1st and do a little more exploring.  Maybe you can join us?!