Trail Description Distance, round-trip: 35 miles Elevation gain: 8500 feet Hiking time, round-trip: 4 days Wilderness camps: Yes A long loop hike in the most pristine wilderness of the Park, through forests and meadows, over rivers, under a cliff of colorful rocks, near the Natural Bridge, past numerous mountain lakes, in ever-changing views of Mount Rainier and its glaciers. The first portion to Lake James can be done as an overnight trip. Along the Trail The first 2 miles lie along the valley floor, close to river elevation. At a junction take the left fork across the Carbon River. On the far bank turn left again, downstream. Then begins a series of countless switchbacks, climbing 3000 feet, mostly in cool forest on a smooth and soft path. At 5.25 miles from Ipsut Creek Campground, pass Yellowstone Cliffs campsite.
Above the trail are Tyee Peak and the Yellowstone Cliffs; beside it, a pair of small lakes to the left and another t5o the right. The tundra of 5800-foot Windy Gap (6 miles from Ipsut Creek) offers wide views, well worth a lengthy lunch stop. At a few hundred yards beyond the top of Windy Gap is a side trail to Natural Bridge, a 1.75 mile round trip. The Northern Loop descends 1400 feet in 2 miles to camps at Lake James, 4370 feet. Here, 87 miles from Ipsut Creek, is the turnaround for overnighters. From Lake James, the route drops to a crossing of the West Fork White River, where a 2500-foot climb begins, at 4.5 miles passing a side trail to Fire Creek Camp. Water is not dependable here; if camping is the plan, obtain water at Van Horn Falls near the West Fork. At 6 miles from Lake James is a junction with Grand Park trail. Continue right another 3 miles to a camp in lower Berkeley Park. Total distance from Lake James, 9 miles. From Berkeley Park Camp climb 1 mile through meadows to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Turn right and cross 6740-foot Skyscraper Pass.
Descend 800 feet to Granite Creek campsite, 4.5 miles from Berkeley Park. From Skyscraper Pass the trail drops a total of 2100 feet to the snout of the Winthrop Glacier and a crossing or Winthrop Creek, a tributary of the White River, then gains 1200 feet to Mystic Camp at 5700 feet, 10 miles from Berkeley Park. To complete the remaining 8 miles of the loop, the trail climbs 400 feet to a 6100-foot pass and then descends through Moraine Park, crosses the Carbon River, and returns to the starting point at Ipsut Creek. Trailhead Location Drive to the Carbon River Entrance and continue to the end of the road at Ipsut Creek Campground, elevation 2300 feet. Find the Wonderland Trail at the upper boundary of the campground. Backpacking Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available at park-wide from Wilderness Information Centers, Ranger Stations, and Visitor Centers. Treat water before drinking. Fires are prohibited. No pets on trails.