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Indian Bar - Summerland Traverse

Mount Rainier Area

Location

Mount Rainier Area -- SE - Cayuse Pass/Stevens Canyon
View map below

Length

34.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 4400 ft.
Highest Point: 6800 ft.

Rating

5.00 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
 
 

One of the most popular routes on Mount Rainier for its varied terrain, wide-open meadows, and incredible views, this 17-mile one-way hike along the mountain’s eastern side showcases the kind of scenery that will have you doing happy little dances of joy from one stunning panorama to the next. And judging by how fast camping permits are snatched up for this area, it’s no secret.

This trail can be engaged from a variety of starting points depending on time and interest. One popular starting point is the Wonderland Trail at Box Canyon, 10 miles west of the Stevens Canyon Entrance. The first mile is a moderate trek northeast to the Nickel Creek wilderness camp, followed by a vigorous 2,000-foot climb to the crest of the Cowlitz Divide.

The trail undulates along the divide, meadows widening the higher you go, and eventually gains another 500 feet to views of Double and Shriner Peaks to the east and The Mountain rising immediately to the west. The trail then drops a quick 800 feet into the valley of the Ohanapecosh River and the wide meadows of Indian Bar. In early summer, numerous waterfalls stream down the walls of the valley, fed by the glaciers above. This makes a good halfway point before starting the next climb.

From Indian Bar, the trail continues north, steeply climbing over 1,500 feet in the next 1.5 miles. It then levels somewhat while traversing the meadows of Ohanapecosh Park to the high point on the Wonderland: Panhandle Gap at 6,800 feet. Here you’ll find yourself in the alpine zone, a landscape dominated by rocky talus that often holds snow through the summer months. Rangers and guidebooks issue warnings about traversing the snowfields here in bad weather, so exercise caution and good judgement. This is a common location to spot mountain goats, and the Cowlitz Chimneys can be viewed to the east.

From the gap, the trail descends 1.5 miles to the Summerland wilderness camp along Fryingpan Creek. Little Tahoma rises sharply above wide meadows brimming with wildflowers, and Goat Island Mountain dominates to the north. The route then descends steadily along Fryingpan Creek 4 miles to the trailhead at Sunrise Road.

Extend Your Hike: Consider camping at one or more of the four campsites in the area: Nickel Creek (four sites), Olallie Creek, Indian Bar (five sites, one group site), and Summerland (six sites). It can be tough to get permits at these campsites due to the area’s popularity and the fact that you’ll be competing with weekend hikers as well as advance-planning Wonderland Trail hikers for the handful of wilderness campsites available through this section. To improve your chances of scoring a permit and savoring this idyllic location, consider a midweek trip.

 

Indian Bar - Summerland Traverse

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 46.7656, -121.6349 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Mount Rainier Area -- SE - Cayuse Pass/Stevens Canyon

Mount Rainier National Park

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Green Trails Mount Rainier East No. 270

Getting There

From Elbe, head east on State Route 706 for 29 miles (SR 706 will turn into Paradise Road). Turn right onto Stevens Canyon Road towards Ohanapecosh and continue for 8.6 miles. The parking area for the Wonderland Trail at Box Canyon will be on your right.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
 

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Indian Bar - Summerland Traverse

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