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Mount Rainier National Park, WA

Sep 5 - Sep 12, 2020 -- $1350 ★★★★

The beauty of Mt. Rainier National Park will leave you speechless. Whether it's the alpine lakes, temperate rainforest full of ancient conifers, charismatic megafauna, redolent lupines and other wildflowers, active glaciers, wild berry picking, or the massive monolithic mountain itself, Mt. Rainier is simply awe-inspiring.

Mt. Rainier National Park awards only 5 commercial backpacking permits every year. Fatpacking has been awarded one of them, so this is one of your few chances to participate in a guided backpacking trip to this destination.

This trip will traverse the Northern Loop section encompassing much of the famed Wonderland Trail and other parts of the park that are seldom traveed. On our 6-day hike, we may encounter elk, deer, eagles, pikas, black bear, mountain goats and marmots with a backdrop of incredible sweeping vistas and even an active glacier, Carbon Glacier. Experience the timeless wonder of Mt. Rainier with us during the fleeting, relatively dry and bug free temperate season.

Our journey will begin in the Northeast of the park at Sunrise Ranger Station. We’ll quickly leave civilization behind as we embark upon the Northern Loop Trail. The perpetually snowy Rainier summit will be our constant companion to the South as we head up to the Northern Loop Trail by Berkeley Park, Lake James and the amazing Natural Bridge before dropping down to Carbon Glacier. We'll cross a suspension bridge (an engineering marvel) and then loop around on the Wonderland Trail to Mystic Lake and on to Skyscraper Peak for 360 degree views of this amazing wilderenss before heading back to Sunrise.

See a Seattle Times articles about the Wonderland Trail (Article 1, Article 2)


Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Expect daytime hiking temperatures in the 60s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s. However, be prepared for the possibility of overnight temperatures as low as the 20s. During the 2008 trip, we woke up to several inches of snow on September 1st. By the afternoon however, it had all melted and by September 2nd (the next day) we were swimming in an alpine lake (although not for very long).

View 7 day weather forecast

Trip Leaders

Chris Frey
Julie Quibodeaux


$1350 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a room with another participant during the 2 hotel nights. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from Seattle / Sea-Tac (SEA), personal equipment, restaurant meals eaten off the trail and any gratuities for guides.

Covered expenses include 2 hotel nights, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation, Park entrance fees, National Park permits, satellite phone, and 2 awesome guides.

Important Notes

Although we are allowed a group size of up to 12, the National Park only allows us to have 6 tents. If our group size is larger than 6, we must start doubling up in tents. Even though this forced closeness sounds unpleasant, it does make pack weight lighter and was not a problem at all on the 2015 or 2019 trips. Expect a ranger to check up on the group some time during the trip to make sure we're adhering to Leave No Trace and Park Regulations.

Mt. Rainier is one of Fatpacking's more difficult, advanced, and rewarding trips. Daily hiking distances are moderate and the terrain is well groomed and well maintained, however very little of it is level. Most days are spent either ascending or descending thousands of feet, sometimes both. Furthermore, the mountain "makes its own weather" meaning that there could be high winds, rain or even snow at any time. Of course, it could also be sunny and crystal clear. And then there are the blueberries...

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Guides for this trip
Important Note
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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Fly into Seattle (SEA). The best arrival time is between 12PM - 3PM, but if you can save a significant amount of money by arriving a little before or after, you should do so.

Take free airport shuttle to local hotel Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle-Airport/28th Ave, 18850 28th Ave South, SeaTac, WA, 98188, 206-244-5044

Equipment shakedown. We go through your pack and examine everything you brought.

Go to REI Tukwila to pick up any equipment participants forgot

Trail mix distribution

"Before" body composition measurements taken

Go out for opening dinner, review trip orientation (cost of dinner not included in trip cost)

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Second set of "before" measurements taken

All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.

Free hotel breakfast

Shuttle to Mt. Rainier National Park, Sunrise Ranger Station, picking up backcountry permits at either the North Entrance Station or Sunrise

Begin hiking at Sunrise, elevation 6245'

Hike 1.2 miles to the Wonderland Trail, elevation 6800'

Drop Packs and Day-Hike 2.6 round trip miles to Mt. Fremont Lookout Tower, elevation 7181'

Hike 0.7 miles to the Northern Loop Trail, elevation 6800'

Hike 1.2 miles on the Northern Loop Trail to Berkely Park Campsite, elevation 5375'

Camp at Berkeley Park Campsite, elevation 5375'

Miles today: 5.7. Total miles: 5.7

Possible bailout: Sunrise

Monday, September 7, 2020

Hike 8.8 miles to James Lake Camp, elevation 4620'

Camp at James Lake Camp, elevation 4620'.

Miles today: 8.8. Total miles: 14.5

Possible bailout: Sunrise

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Hike about 2.4 uphill miles to Windy Gap, elevation 5800'

Drop packs and day-hike about 1.8 round trip miles on an unmaintained trail to Natural Bridge, elevation 5200'

Hike downhill for 0.5 miles to Yellowstone Cliffs, elevation 5180'

Start a long downhill hike, 2.7 miles to the Carbon River, elevation 2900' the lowest elevation on the trip

Hike 1.1 uphill miles on the Northern Loop Trail to a suspension bridge, elevation 3195'

Cross the suspension bridge with views of Carbon Glacier to get to Carbon River Camp, elevation 3195'.

Camp at Carbon River Camp, elevation 3195'

Miles today: 8.5. Total miles: 23.0

Possible bailout: No ideal options. Ipsut Creek?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Re-cross the suspension bridge and hike 4.9 uphill miles on the Wonderland Trail to Mystic Camp, elevation 5570'

Camp at Mystic Camp, elevation 5570'

Miles today: 4.9. Total miles: 27.9

Possible bailout: No ideal options.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Hike 5.5 miles on the Wonderland Trail to Granite Creek Camp, elevation 5765’

Camp at Granite Creek Campsite, elevation 5765'

Miles today: 5.5. Total miles: 33.4

Possible bailout: Sunrise

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hike 1.3 uphill miles on the Wonderland Trail to the base of Skyscraper Mountain, elevation 6600'

Drop packs and day-hike/scramble 1.0 round trip miles to the top of Skyscraper Mountain for sweeping views of the entire region, elevation 7078'

Hike 2.0 miles on the Wonderland Trail to the Northern Loop Trail, elevation 6400'

Hike 1.9 miles to the Sunrise Ranger Station, elevation 6245'

End of hiking

Miles today: 6.2. Total miles: 39.6

Possible bailout: Sunrise

Shuttle back to Seattle and check into local hotel Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle-Airport/28th Ave, 18850 28th Ave South, SeaTac, WA, 98188, 206-244-5044

"After" measurements taken

Dinner and awards Ceremony (Dinner cost not included in trip cost)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Free Hotel Breakfast

Free airport shuttle

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