For those who have run the Grand Canyon, West Coast Trail, and TransZion run, and are looking for the next epic trail running adventure, the 93-odd-mile Wonderland Trail around majestic Mt Rainier is a must-do stunner.
Although some have run the trail in one shot, it would be a shame to miss any segment of its scenery to the dark, and its ten-odd volcanic ridge climbs and descents would make a single running damned hard. We ran it over three days which was about perfect.
We started at Mowich Lake, in the NW corner, closest to Vancouver and Seattle, and we would endorse this start point. From Mowich, you must make an immediate decision as to the first 9-mile segment: be a purist and follow the formal Wonderland Trail, or take the alternative Spray Park route, which is about the same difficulty and distance, but at higher altitude, taking one through alpine meadows and past waterfalls. We voted Spray Park, and did not regret it.
First campsite: White River (NE). Second campsite: Cougar Rock (SE). Both are excellent, and located near roaring glacial streams which drown out noise and provide a rejuvenating and frigid post-run soak. For the second night, one could continue down just over a mile to Longmire, a major campground.
To praise the epic beauty of Rainier and its environs, and the perfect single-track of most of this trail, and the acres of wildflowers, and the craggy peaks, and the massive glaciers, and the swinging bridges, and the old growth forest, and the churning glacial rivers, and the drapery of waterfalls, and the views of Mounts Baker, Adams, Hood and St Helens in the distance, and the reflective lakes, and the roaming bears and mountain goats, and, and, and, and, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
Resources: an useful new book here, and an useful online guide here.
Everyone in CFA and all trailrunners should bookmark the website of crewmyrun.com, run by Matt Gunn, the race director of the Zion 100M. Matt is a great and amiable fellow who organises these epic runs, with shuttle services, logistics, and meals provided. I would heartily recommend his services: this was the first year, and he had the logistics nailed, and made what would be a horrible logistic nightmare into an epic, simple, and fun reality. Scope out his website and drool over the adventures: Rocky Mountain National Park, TransZion, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Muir Trail: wow.