Wonderland Trail Wilderness Campsites

by wheretheroadforks

The 93 mile (150 km) Wonderland Trail encircles beautiful Mount Rainier. Along the trail, you’ll find 18 wilderness camps and 3 non-wilderness campsites. This guide outlines all of the Wonderland Trail campsites. Under each campsite name, I list the elevation, distances to the nearest sites, facilities, terrain, and more. I’ll also outline the camps of the Spray Park Trail and the Northern Loop in case you decide to hike an alternate route of the Wonderland Trail.

In Mount Rainier National Park, a permit is required to camp at wilderness campsites. You must camp at a designated site. Disperse camping is not permitted in the park. Most wilderness camps are located between 3 and 7 miles apart. This guide is organized in a clockwise direction starting from Longmire

You can apply for a permit online in advance starting on March 15 of each year or try your luck at getting a walk-up permit at one of the wilderness information centers (WIC). Permits are free but availability is limited. Your permit lists the name of your camp and the date that you are permitted to camp there. Use this guide to help you put together your itinerary before applying for your permit.

For more general information, check out my guide: How to Plan a Wonderland Trail Hike

Wonderland Trail Wilderness Campsites

Each Wonderland Trail wilderness camp is equipped with a basic bathroom, bear hang or bear box for storing food, and flat sites where you can set up your tent. The sites are first come, first serve.

Most camps have group sites for parties between 6 and 12 people. A handful of camps have a shelter. Most are located near a water source. Campfires are not permitted at any of the wilderness camps. You can use a camp stove to cook.

Pyramid Creek

  • Elevation: 3765 feet or 1148 meters
  • Group site: No
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Devil’s Dream 2.1 miles or 3.4 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Paradise River 7.1 miles or 11.7 km (Cougar Rock is located around 3 miles from Paramid Creek. This is a non-wilderness site.)
  • Notes: If you’re hiking clockwise from Longmire, this is the first camp that you’ll come to. This is a small camp with decent tree cover.

Devil’s Dream

  • Elevation: 5060 feet or 1542 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: South Puyallup 7 miles or 11.3 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Pyramid Creek 2.1 miles or 3.4 km
  • Notes: This large camp includes 6 sites. Due to the relatively high elevation, it gets cold here. When I camped here in mid September it was freezing raining. Ice crystals formed on my hat while I pitched my tent.

South Puyallup River

  • Elevation: 4000 feet or 1219 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Klapatche Park 3.9 miles or 6.3 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Devil’s Dream 7 miles or 11.3 km
  • Notes: Decent camp on a hillside with good tree cover

Klapatche Park

  • Elevation: 5515 feet or 1680 meters
  • Group site: No
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: North Puyallup 2.8 miles or 4.5 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: South Puyallup River 3.9 miles or 6.3 km
  • Notes: This high elevation camp sits near a small mountain lake. It’s a scenic area with a nice atmosphere.

North Puyallup

  • Elevation: 3750 feet or 1143 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Golden Lakes 4.8 miles or 7.7 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Klapatche Park 2.8 miles or 4.5 km
  • Notes: This is a small camp with 3 sites located on the side of a hill. This camp offers excellent tree cover. I camped here during a heavy storm and stayed pretty dry. One drawback to this site is the fact that the bathroom and group site is pretty far from the camps. You have to cross the river over a bridge to get there. Doing this in the pitch blackness of night would not be pleasant. 

Golden Lakes

  • Elevation: 5130 feet or 1564 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: South Mowich River 6 miles or 9.7 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: North Puyallup 4.8 miles or 7.7 km
  • Notes: This camp sits near a decent sized lake. There is a ranger cabin near the camp that is occasionally occupied.

South Mowich River

  • Elevation: 2605 feet or 794 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: Yes
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Mowich Lake 4.3 miles or 6.9 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Golden Lakes 6 miles or 9.7 km
  • Notes: This is a nice, low elevation camp with good tree cover. This would be a good choice for a cold or stormy night. The camp has a nice 3 sided wood shelter where 4-6 people could sleep. One drawback to the shelter is the mice. They can get pretty aggressive and walk on you in your sleep. The river runs right by the camp making water easily accessible. The river also adds a nice background noise while you’re sleeping. 

Mowich Lake Campground (Non-Wilderness Camp)

  • Elevation: 4929 feet or 1502 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Ipsut Creek 5.4 miles or 8.7 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: South Mowich River 4.3 miles or 6.9 km
  • Notes: This is the park’s smallest non-wilderness camp. It has 10 campsites and 3 group sites. Here, you’ll find picnic tables, tent platforms, and bear boxes for food storage. There are also decent bathrooms stocked with toilet paper. If you shipped or dropped off a food or fuel cache, you can pick it up at the Mowich Lake Patrol Cabin. If you’re hiking in a clockwise direction, this is where you will fork off of the Wonderland Trail if you’re taking the Spray Park route.

Ipsut Creek

  • Elevation: 2330 feet or 710 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: Yes
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Carbon River 3.3 miles or 5.3 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Mowich Lake 5.4 miles or 8.7 km
  • Notes: This is the lowest elevation camp on the Wonderland Trail. At this large camp, you’ll find a 3 sided wooden shelter, nice bathrooms with toilet paper, bear boxes for food storage, and plenty of flat campsites. Ipsut Creek offers good tree cover as well if you’re camping in the rain. I camped here on a night with ‘record precipitation’ according to the ranger and stayed pretty dry. This camp used to be one of the trail’s main trailheads before a major flood washed out the road in 2006. Two miles of road were washed out and never replaced. Now the camp is only accessible by foot and bicycle.

Carbon River

  • Elevation: 3195 feet or 974 meters
  • Group site: No
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Dick Creek 1.2 miles or 1.9 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Ipsut Creek 3.3 miles or 5.3 km
  • Notes: This is a scenic campground near the river with decent tree cover. If you’re hiking in a counterclockwise direction, this is where you will cross fork off of the Wonderland Trail over a suspension bridge if you are taking the Spray Park route.

Dick Creek

  • Elevation: 4185 feet or 1276 meters
  • Group site: No
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Mystic Lake 3.6 miles or 5.8 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Carbon River 1.2 miles or 1.9 km
  • Notes: This small camp sits just above Carbon Glacier. It has just two sites. One offers a nice view and the other sits tucked away in the trees. The camp is near a water source.

Mystic Lake

  • Elevation: 5570 feet or 1698 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Granite Creek 4.5 miles or 7.2 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Dick Creek 3.6 miles or 5.8 km
  • Notes: This large camp offers 6 regular sites and a group site. The campsites are built up on the side of a hill with decent tree cover. This bathroom here is one of the worst. It’s a 3 sided structure about 4 feet tall with no roof. Using it during a rainstorm was pretty unpleasant. While preparing dinner, two black bears walked through camp. It was a mother bear and her young cub. Some hikers I met a few days later told me that bear sightings are common around Mystic so keep your eye out while hiking and camping near here. Check out my guide to avoiding bear encounters while hiking for more info. 

Granite Creek

  • Elevation: 5765 feet or 1757 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Sunrise Camp 4.1 miles or 6.6 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Mystic Lake 4.5 miles or 7.2 km
  • Notes: This is a decent, high elevation camp with good tree cover. It’s the closest camp to Sunrise, one of the more popular starting points of the Wonderland Trail. If you’re starting there and hiking counterclockwise, this would be a good place to camp your first night.

Sunrise Camp

  • Elevation: 6245 feet or 1903 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: White River 4.3 miles or 6.9 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Granite Creek 4.1 miles or 6.6 km
  • Notes: This camp lies just over a mile from one of the Wonderland Trail’s main trailheads, Sunrise. If you shipped or dropped off a food cache for Sunrise, you can pick it up at the visitor’s center near the trailhead.

White River Campground (Non-Wilderness Camp)

  • Elevation: 4280 feet or 1305 meters
  • Group site: No
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Summerland 5.5 miles or 8.9 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Sunrise Camp 4.3 miles or 6.9 km
  • Notes: This large non-wilderness camp offers 112 sites, flush toilets, fire pits, and water. A small number of spaces are reserved for thru-hikers which can be reserved for free when you get your permit if they are available.

Summerland

  • Elevation: 5940 feet or 1811 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: Yes
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Indian Bar 4.5 miles or 7.2 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: White River Campground 5.5 miles or 8.9 km
  • Notes: This is possibly the most popular camp in the entire park due to the incredible views of Mount Rainier, meadows of wildflowers, and frequent wildlife spottings. Securing a site here can be a challenge during the busy month of August due to the high demand. If you’re planning to get a walk-up permit, schedule this camp near the end of your itinerary to give yourself the best chance of getting a spot.

Indian Bar

  • Elevation: 5120 feet or 1561 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: Yes
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Nickel Creek 6.8 miles or 10.9 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Summerland 4.5 miles or 7.2 km
  • Notes: This beautiful camp is probably the second most popular on the trail after Summerland. It sits near the Ohanapecosh River and features a shelter and group site. A water source lies near the camp.

Nickel Creek

  • Elevation: 3385 feet or 1032 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Maple Creek 3.1 miles or 5 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Indian Bar 6.8 miles or 10.9 km
  • Notes: This is a pleasant camp with decent tree cover.

Maple Creek

  • Elevation: 2815 feet or 858 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Paradise River 6.8 miles or 10.9 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Nickel Creek 3.1 miles or 5 km
  • Notes: Nice low elevation camp with a group site.

Paradise River

  • Elevation: 3805 feet or 1160 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Pyramid Creek 7.1 miles or 11.7 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Maple Creek 6.8 miles or 10.9 km
  • Notes: Nice camp with a group site.

Cougar Rock Campground (No-Wilderness Camp)

  • Elevation: 3180 feet or 969 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Notes: Cougar Rock Campground lies around a mile from Longmire. This is one of the busiest and most popular parts of the park. Facilities include bathrooms with flush toilets, fire pits, picnic tables, tent pads, food storage, and drinking water. This is a paid car campground. You can reserve a space through the recreation.gov website here. A small number of spaces are reserved for thru-hikers which are issued for free with a permit from the wilderness information centers.

Spray Park Trail Wilderness Campsites

The Spray Park Trail is a popular alternate route for Wonderland Trail thru-hikers. This 16 miles stretch of trail takes offers a high elevation alternative to the low elevation Ipsut Creek section of the Wonderland Trail.

If you’re traveling a clockwise direction, the Spray Park Trail splits off from the Wonderland Trail at Mowich Lake and Rejoins near Carbon River camp. Campsites along the spray park trail traveling clockwise from Mowich Lake include:

Eagle’s Roost

  • Elevation: 4885 feet or 1489 meters
  • Group site: No
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Cataract Valley 4.8 miles or 7.7 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Mowich Lake 1.9 miles or 3.1 km
  • Notes: This wilderness camp offers 7 sites, a basic bathroom, a bear pole, and good tree cover. The bathroom is located down a steep hill on the edge of camp. One of the best things about this camp is the nearby waterfall where you can collect water and take a dip during the summer.

Cataract Valley

  • Elevation: 4620 feet or 1408 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going clockwise: Carbon River 1.6 miles or 2.6 km
  • Nearest camp going counterclockwise: Eagle’s Roost 4.8 miles or 7.7 km
  • Notes: This camp offers good tree cover and a nearby stream for collecting water.

The Northern Loop Trail Wilderness Campsites

This 15.5 mile trail forks off from the Wonderland Trail near Sunrise and meats back up in the Carbon River Valley between Carbon River camp and Ipsut Creek. Many hikers choose to hike a loop by taking the Northern Loop Trail out and the Wonderland Trail back. This hike is about 33 miles.

For a longer hike, you can add the spray park trail to this loop to create a 48 mile trip through the entire northern section of Mount Rainier National Park. This offers kind of a mini Wonderland Trail experience if you don’t want to hike the entire 93 miles.

Camps along the Northern Loop Trail from East to West include:

Berkeley Park

  • Elevation: 5375 feet or 1638 meters
  • Nearest camp going West: Fire Creek 3.8 miles or 6.1 km
  • Nearest camp going East: Sunrise 3.9 miles or 6.3 km
  • Notes: This wilderness camp offers 3 sites, a bear pole, and open air toilet. A river runs right by camp where you can collect water. It’s a good idea to stock up on water before you leave camp if you’re hiking West. You’ll pass through a 5 mile section without any water sources.

Fire Creek

  • Elevation: 4860 feet or 1481 meters
  • Group site: Yes
  • Shelter: No
  • Nearest camp going West: Lake James 3.8 miles or 6.1 km
  • Nearest camp going East: Berkeley Park 3.8 miles or 6.1 km
  • Notes: This camp lies about .5 miles off of the trail. A stream runs through camp where you can collect water and take a dip during the summer. This camp offers good tree cover.

James Camp

  • Elevation: 4620 feet or 1408 meters
  • Nearest camp going West: Yellowstone Cliffs 3.3 miles or 5.3 km
  • Nearest camp going East: Fire Creek 3.8 miles or 6.1 km
  • Notes: This camp is located near Lake James. The sites sit far back from the lakeshore scattered on a hillside.

Yellowstone Cliffs

  • Elevation: 5180 feet or 1579 meters
  • Nearest camp going West: You have two options. Carbon River camp (4.2 miles or 6.8 km from Yellowstone Cliffs) or Ipsut Creek (5.5 miles or 8.9 km from Yellowstone Cliffs). After leaving Yellowstone Cliffs, you’ll hike for 3.1 miles or 5 km, cross a suspension bridge, and meet up with the Wonderland Trail. From there, you can head clockwise on the Wonderland Trail back toward Carbon River camp. This will lead you back to Sunrise. You can also link up with the Spray Park Trail near Carbon River Camp. If you head counterclockwise on the Wonderland Trail, you’ll get to Ipsut Creek camp. This trail will take you to Mowich Lake.
  • Nearest camp going East: James camp 3.3 miles or 5.3 km
  • Notes: This is a small camp with just two sites. The camp sits near Spukwush Creek where you can collect water.

A Few More Options: Hotels and Car Camps Near the Wonderland Trail

If you’re having trouble putting together an itinerary or you want to break up the trip a bit with a hotel stay in the middle, you have a few options including:

National Park Inn, Longmire

The National Park Inn is located in the town of Longmire. This would be a great place to stay the night before you start your hike or for a rest day in the middle of your hike. They have a nice restaurant and a lounge area where you can relax by the fire. For more info and to make reservations, check out their website.

In Longmire, you can access the internet at the wilderness information center, use flush toilets, visit a small shop for supplies, and get permits.

Elevation: 3180 feet or 969 meters

Paradise Inn, Paradise

Paradise Inn is located in the town of Paradise. The Wonderland Trail doesn’t pass through paradise but it does pass nearby. The nearest Wonderland Trail wilderness camp is Paradise River. A stay here will add a couple of miles to your itinerary. For more info on the hotel check out their website here.

Elevation: 5400 feet or 1645 meters.

Ohanapecosh Camp

 This is a non-wilderness camp that is located in the Southeast corner of the park. Ohanapecosh Camp lies a few miles off of the Wonderland Trail. The closest Wonderland Trail camp is probably Nickel Creek. There is really no reason to stay here unless all of the nearby camps are booked up. A campsite costs $20 per night. You can make a reservation here.

Elevation: 1914 feet or 583 meters.

Things to Consider When Choosing Your Wonderland Trail Campsites

The Wonderland Trail has a pretty serious elevation change of about 22,000 feet (6700 meters). To help you build your itinerary and pick out campsites, look at the elevation gain or loss between sites. This can help you determine how many miles you want to hike on any given day. Some days you’ll be climbing all day. You may want to schedule fewer miles for these days.

Also consider the distance between camps. They are not all evenly spaced. Sometimes the next camp is just a couple of miles down the trail and sometimes it’s up to 7 miles away. One day ended up being a little more intense than I would have liked. I ended up hiking for a couple of hours in the dark. I would have been much happier stopping one camp before.

You don’t have to worry about water availability too much on this trail. While you’re hiking, you’ll come across plenty of water sources. You could probably get by just carrying a liter of water at a time. I usually carried about 2 liters just to be safe.

My Experience Camping on the Wonderland Trail

I started my Wonderland Trail hike in mid-September. Unfortunately, the week I chose turned out to be very wet. When I was putting together my walk up itinerary with the ranger, she informed me that ‘record precip’ was expected over the next couple of days.

To stay a bit more dry, the ranger helped me choose camps that were at lower elevations with good tree cover. It helped somewhat but I still got wet. After my first night at Mystic Lake camp, I basically woke up in a puddle.

The storm lasted about 5 days before letting up. During that time, everything soaked through and never dried out. Even with all of the rain, I still had a great hike. The rain added to the atmosphere.

Final Thoughts: Wonderland Trail Wilderness Campsites

The campsites along the Wonderland Trail are basic but well placed and maintained. Each camp offers some kind of food storage, a basic bathroom, and a nice flat place to pitch a tent. Most camps are built in the trees which provide a bit of protection from the rain and wind.

If you don’t get a space in all of your chosen camps, don’t worry about it too much. Sure, some camps offer better views and facilities. At the end of the day, this doesn’t really matter. You’re just going to be sleeping at camp anyway for the most part. During your hike, you’ll pass by all of the camps anyway. Enjoy the views on the trail.

What are your favorite Wonderland Trail campsites? Share your experience in the comments below!

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