How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip in Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier Backpacking Quick-Start Guide
Hoping to go backpacking at Mount Rainier? Before you reach the sublime views, there are many details to attend to: planning your food, apparel, and gear whether heading out for two days or ten days.
To help kick-start your own Mount Rainier backpacking plan, we’ve assembled a convenient quick-start guide, complete with tips, essentials checklists, links to get you to the web pages you really need, and 411 on which maps and guidebooks are best suited to help you plan out your own personalized trip. Advice and photos by Eli Boschetto.
- Plan your trip and reserve your permit in advance (see Permits in the Links section)
- Prepare for all weather contingencies, even in mid-summer
- Be animal- and bear-aware, and plan for proper food storage
- Know the location and hours of Wilderness Centers, especially if planning food caches
- Pack a cooking stove, as campfires are not permitted in wilderness areas
- Stay off of glaciers and avoid trampling meadow vegetation
The 10 Essentials
- map & compass
- knife/pocket tool
- emergency blanket
- extra food & water
- extra clothing
- first aid kit
- water treatment/filter
- trekking poles/walking stick
- cooking stove & fuel
- food storage bag/can
- down/synthetic insulation
- rain gear
- pack cover
- extra batteries
The National Park Service Mount Rainier website is your one-stop shop to help you get started in planning your next adventure on The Mountain. Seasonal, up-to-date info is readily available with wilderness planning information, trail conditions, backcountry camp locations, and permit application processes. You’ll also find information on the natural and human history of the region, plants and animals, ranger programs, park fees, and more.
Visit the Wilderness Information page for basic 411 on planning your trip into Mt. Rainier’s wilderness. There, you’ll find information on water safety, wilderness camping regulations, and Leave No Trace ethics. Also, check out the Maps page to help you plan which routes you’d like to take, distances, and wilderness camp locations.
All overnight trips in Mount Rainier National Park require a Wilderness Permit. Permits are available by faxing an application to the Wilderness Information Center or by obtaining a first-come-first-served permit on your desired start day. Faxed permits are accepted starting March 15 of each season for start dates through September 30. Because each wilderness campsite has limited space, reserving a permit during the busy summer season is highly recommended. The park also reserves 30% of its permits for walk-ups, but you may still find areas filled. Its best to have a back-up plan in case your first choice locations are filled. Improve your chances by starting mid-week.
If you’re planning to take on the entire 95.2-mile Wonderland Trail, visit this page for some helpful planning tips and info: permits and how to make a reservation, camp locations and distances, caching food and fuel, and wilderness regulations.
For additional info on and around Mount Rainier National Park, check out VisitRainier.com. This in-depth web guide offers a bounty of news and seasonal info on hiking, camping, fishing, mountaineering, family activities, and winter sports. It also offers suggestions on area lodging, dining, visitor centers, and local events.
Mt. Rainier National Park, National Geographic Trails Illustrated #217
Waterproof, two-sided map includes 1:55K park map, and 1:27K climber’s map. Also includes lots of helpful information about the park, activities, trails, wilderness access, and safety info. $11.95
Mt. Rainier Wonderland, Green Trails Maps #269S
Waterproof, two-sided map includes 1:63K park map, and 1:24K climber’s map. Also includes trail and mountaineering info, GPS waypoints, and a full elevation profile for the Wonderland Trail. $12.00
National Geographic Park Maps
High-resolution topo/trail maps for 15 national parks, including Mt. Rainier and Olympic. Includes GPS locator, waypoints, and a ton of additional info for each park, including park histories, activities, visitor and wilderness information and more. $4.99
Green Trails MAPP - Mount Rainier Wonderland
Similar to the printed topo, this high-resolution app includes all the trails within Mount Rainier National Park, including GPS waypoints for trailheads and backcountry camps. $4.99
50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, Ira Spring and Harvey Manning, Wilderness Press
Hiking Mount Rainier National Park, Heidi Schneider and Mary Skjelset, Falcon Guides
Best Loop Hikes Washington, Dan A. Nelson and Alan Bauer, Mountaineers Books
Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail, Bette Filley, Dunamis House