Wonderland Trail News You Can Use!


Hello all! We know it has been a while since our last post, and we apologize for the long period of silence. It’s been a very busy school year for us, and we’ve had to put this here blog on the back burner for a while. We know that’s a totally lame excuse, but we have been diligently working on some posts from our trip to Peru last summer. We promise to start publishing those posts soon, but, before we do, we have some very exciting news to share with anyone who is still out there. So here goes…

We’ve Been Published!

This past March, we became published authors. We wrote a guidebook about our experience on the Wonderland Trail! It was released by Sandiburg Press, an independent boutique publisher, as part of their Plan & Go series of guidebooks. Sandiburg is a new kid on the excursion guide block, but they already have several cool titles in this series of hiking adventures, including the John Muir Trail, England’s Coast to Coast Walk, and the Lone Star Hiking Trail in Texas.

The guides are written to give hikers like you and me a comprehensive resource for every aspect of planning a big backpacking adventure, including applying for permits, planning a route, caching food, trail descriptions, can’t miss highlights and anything else you might need to know to make your dream trip a reality.

Wonderland Trail_Sandiburg Press

We are incredibly proud of our guide book on the Wonderland Trail and know that anyone planning to hike this iconic trail will find it incredibly useful. Get your copy today!

It’s a Wonderland Trail Permit Free-for-All!


We have a super fun summer of epic backpacking planned for this year, including backpacking from Mt. Whitney to Yosemite on the John Muir Trail. This will be our longest and most challenging backpacking trip to date, and we are really looking forward to it. Please wish us luck!

As long as we are out on the west coast, we thought we would top that off with a return to Mount Rainier to backpack the Northern Loop, a 15.5 mile trail leaving from the Sunrise Visitor Center that can be combined with the northern section of the Wonderland Trail and the Spray Park alternate to create a 48-mile figure 8-shaped loop. We heard the scenery along the trail is spectacular, and it will give us a chance to return to our beloved Mount Rainier, hike the Ipsut Pass Trail that we bypassed by going through Spray Park in 2014 and retrace some of our favorite parts of the Wonderland Trail, only this time heading in the opposite direction. Sounds like a pretty cool plan, right?


Well, we did our homework, diligently filled out our permit application with multiple itineraries and starting dates to increase our chances of landing a permit and planned to fax it off smack dab in the middle of the permit lottery window, which is from March 15-31. Just before sending it off, we decided to check the website to make sure we had the correct fax number and discovered some pretty shocking news.

Apparently, the park experienced some kind of catastrophic power failure to their reservation system at the beginning of the reservation window and determined it impossible to fix. So, instead of issuing advance permits, they have decided to make all backcountry permits available on a first-come, first-serve basis for the summer of 2016. They hope to have a new permit system in place for 2017, but that’s a day late and a dollar short for this year. Check out the park’s official press release for yourself.


Total game changer!

How come? Well, in the past, two-thirds of all backcountry sites were reserved in advance, while one-third was left for people to reserve in person at the park. We were lucky enough to score one of those walk-up permits in 2014, but we were really hoping we didn’t have to leave this year’s trip up to chance again.

Now none of the camps can be reserved in advance, and everyone will be in the same boat, hoping to secure a coveted backcountry permit after arriving in the park. We called the Wilderness Information Center a few weeks ago and asked what they predicted would happen. Would this make it more difficult to get a permit? Or would it keep Type-A planners not wanting to take a chance on their vacation plans not working out far away from the chaos?

Matt attaching a backcountry permit to our tent at Granite Creek.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. But, it does mean that if you were bemoaning the fact that you didn’t get your permit application in on time, you are on a level playing field with everyone else, and doing the Wonderland Trail this year is still a real possibility. Yahoo! Be sure to check out our helpful guide to planning your Wonderland adventure, and, if you really decide to give it a go, our Plan & Go guidebook will tell you everything you need to know to have a great experience in this magnificent park. 

We plan to call the park once we finish the John Muir Trail and see what is happening in the park before we race up there from California. If all goes well, we’ll be experiencing more of Mount Rainier’s unbelievable backcountry trails. Maybe you will, too. We hope to see you out there!


23 thoughts on “Wonderland Trail News You Can Use!

  1. Go to alpine lakes wilderness or north cascades national park instead. Too late, I think, for a permit to the enchantments though…

    1. We have been dreaming of the Enchantments since you told us about it last time, but we did miss the lottery window. We might try for a walk-up there or go to the Cascades if Rainier is too crazy. We did get a permit for the Seven Lakes Basin in Olympic, so we have a great backup if we strike out everywhere. 🙂 Hope we might see you in Seattle again!

  2. Alison and Matt – Congrats on your new book! I did a sneak peak at it and it looks wonderful – no pun intended. Hiking this summer at Mt. Rainier promises to be a real zoo. We’re all scratching our heads and wondering “how did this happen??” Here’s the best advice I can give, as a long time user of Mt. Rainier’s backcountry sites: 1) be flexible when asking for backcountry reservations. If you go with a set itinerary, chances are good you’ll be disappointed 2) avoid Friday and Saturday nights, if at all possible. Sunday through Thursday will be more open and 3) avoid the most popular campsites, if at all possible. Summerland and Indian Bar are always full, and very difficult to reserve, esp on Fridays and Saturdays. Things quiet down after Labor Day, and I’ve had good luck in September.

    The Northern Loop is gorgeous and well worth the journey! Be sure to go out to the Natural Bridge – it’s only an extra half mile or so, and well worth the side trip.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Laurie! We are really excited about the Northern Loop and hope we can make it happen. Your tips for getting a permit are spot on, and we will definitely make the side trip to the Natural Bridge if we are lucky enough to get out there. What were your favorite camps on that section of the trail?

  3. This would drive my Type A personality crazy…. Keeping fingers crossed you get a lucky permit !

    1. So true! We are hoping the majority of people think like you do and decide to stay far away. It will be really interesting to see what happens. Stay tuned…

    1. Thanks for the hiking tips, John. We know you know this area really well, so we will definitely look into your suggestions. The good news is that you really can’t go wrong in the Pacific Northwest. You all are certainly spoiled for choice!

  4. Congratulations Alison and Matt

    Your are just living the hike life so beautifully.

    Sharon x


    1. You are so sweet, Sharon. We are still hoping to get to Australia to check out some of your country’s amazing trails (and the Whyte family) sometime soon. 🙂

  5. Congrats on your book! You guys are experts on the subjects of hiking and camping. I am sure the book is wonderful!

  6. What a well timed publication! Because of the Great Rainier Permit Debacle of 2016, my husband and I have been discussing changing our anniversary trip plans to hike one of the best loop hikes in our state! I’ve just started researching details, and found this post. I’ll definitely be picking up your book to help with planning this epic adventure. Can’t wait to read about your upcoming trips on the JMT and the Northern Loop, or wherever you end up in Washington!

      1. Our anniversary is in early September, so we’d probably leave near the end of August. I’d definitely want to plan to be far from the car camping areas of the park over Labor Day Weekend though! I’ve been looking at the same trailhead you used! We hiked to Summerland a month before our wedding, so it would be wonderful to end the trip there.

        Another trip I’ve got my eye on for this year is a loop from Phelps Meadow – Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass in the Central Cascades. It would certainly make for a wonderful backup plan if Rainier doesn’t work out!

      2. That sounds great, Laura. We would love to hike after Labor Day when all the kids are back in school, but, unfortunately for us as teachers, we have to be there, too! Thanks for the tip about the Central Cascades. We will definitely check that hike out. Best of luck to you!

    1. Thanks so much! You are lucky to have your favorite park so close to your home. We would love to be able to visit there on weekends and during the different seasons. Are you able to get there often?

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