Wonderland Trail to Panhandle Gap

Mount Rainier National Park

Wonderland Trail to Panhandle Gap is a 17.9 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Paradise Inn, Washington that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October.

Distance: 17.9 km Elevation Gain: 963 m Route Type: Out & Back




nature trips

bird watching







wild flowers




no dogs

Directions from White River Entrance: Drive westward on White River Road 3 miles to a parking area near the Fryingpan Creek bridge. The trailhead is across the road. Parking space is limited and fills early on sunny summer days. Have an alternate hike in mind in case parking space is not available.

5 months ago

7 months ago

Arrived at 930 and cars filled both sides of the road on a beautiful Sunday - go earlier than we did. Initially intended on just hiking to Summerland but weather was so good we kept going past the camp and up to the gap. Only a very brief stretch (20ish feet) of trail covered in snow. View from the top spectacular - Mt Baker and even Mt Hood visible on a clear day. Saw a herd of mountain goats within 100 yards of trail up on Goat Island mountain (on your right as you go up from Summerland). Bring sunscreen for beyond tree-line portion.

7 months ago

Absolutely stunning. Did this as a day hike and it was perfect! Wildflowers, marmots, glaciers, waterfalls.

7 months ago


7 months ago

I did most of this hike yesterday evening. The drive in from the south is gorgeous! Even at $30 to get into the park it was still worth it! Do I have a story though! About 4 miles up, at about 8:30pm, just after you cross Fryingpan Creek my friend and I surprised two very large wolves right off the trail. They were within 50ft of us. They ran to about 100ft away and turned back and stood their ground. We threw as many rocks as we could find and eventually got them to run off. We booked it down the mountain as fast as I ever gone. What a crazy experience!!! Be safe on the trails. I am really really grateful I had someone with me. I can’t wait to go back and finish the hike!

A fantastic hike that checks many boxes. The trail is in very good shape all the way to Summerland Camp. From there to pan handle gap it’s all very manageable. I’d suggest poles, crampons, or micro spikes for a couple snow crossings at the higher altitudes / getting to Pan Handle Gap. There is so much to see starting with forests, streams and waterfalls. It then transitions to a subalpine meadow filled with wild flowers and animal life (many friendly marmots and chipmunks). Finally, it transitions to rocky alpine terrain that includes many waterfalls created from melting snow, and a couple small partially frozen “lakes” / small bodies of water. The very top provides a gorgeous view of Mt. Adams and even Mt. Hood. Mt. Rainier in all of her majestic beauty towers over the meadow, and can be viewed for much of the hike. Definitely recommend this hike. Parking is limited. Even on a Wednesday we got one of the last few spots on the road as the lot was full. Just always plan a back up hike. There are so many rewarding ones in the area it shouldn’t be difficult.

9 months ago

Did this trail on 6/24/19.. Amazingly stunning views. Plenty of water sources. Varying surroundings, from forested to exposed & barren. A frozen lake that is a spectacular light blue. Still a lot of snow, some of it across the trail and all snow so we put on micro spikes shortly after the group camp. The last 1000 ft is kind of dicey as you traverse a steep, snow covered slope. I would have been more comfortable with an ice ax but made due with poles. Had lunch at the gap and considered going up to the peak but weather was closing in. It can change quickly up there. Glissaded down the steep slope and a few others. I logged 11.6 miles RT on this app and want to go back.

Thu Sep 27 2018

Great hike! Perfect weather. Love the different terrain. Forest, meadows, rocks, waterfalls. Saw marmots & mountain goats. Pretty green lake. View of Mount Adams & Mount Hood from Panhandle Gap.

Mon Sep 17 2018

left pre-dawn, complete down pour of rain!! Rain turned to snow just before Summerland shelter. Within the next 1/2 mile, trail turned into its own waterfall (water mixed with slush). turned around shy of Pan Handle, wet/slushy/freezing rocks way to slick (I was running). Beautiful day!! Snow mixed with fall color and hazy skies, awesome!!!

Thu Aug 23 2018

This is a beautiful hike, the kind you take out-of-town friends on. You have a well maintained trail that starts off in old growth forest that transitions to subalpine meadows and then to a glacial moraine. All of that in 6 miles (one way) and 3k elevation gain.

Sat Jul 14 2018

Beautiful hike! We hit some pretty bad mosquitoes while down in the trees, but they were absent up in the meadows and higher. Great views, fun glissading, a chilly polar plunge and very patient Park Rangers made for a very rewarding hike.

Mon May 28 2018

Made it to Summerland but be prepared for snow. No good for running shoes right now as what snow is there is melting. Wet wet wet. I definitely plan on coming back after the melt to get the full experience.

Sun May 27 2018

This is the summer land trail, lots of snow still in late May. Great workout, great views, would recommend.

Sun Sep 03 2017

Totally worth the steep hike. The views were phenomenal, with a gorgeous field of wildflowers at summer-land and goats and snowy peaks at panhandle gap.

Sun Jul 23 2017

Good amount snow on the last bit on top, poles are extremely helpful. There were a few people on the trail, mostly at the camp however we started earlier and had an overall 'quiet' hike. The view from the very top is worth the entire hike up. We started at 8:30 and it took as about 3.5 hours to the top. It was one of the best hikes I've done so far.

Sun Jul 09 2017

Prepare for decent amount of snow on this trail. Especially during the last part where all you see is snow. I hiked it without ski sticks which isn't something I'd recommend as there are a few dicey spots. Needless to say it's all worth it at the top with the majestic view of Mount Rainer.

Sat Aug 27 2016

Unbelievable hike up to Panhandle! One of the best day hikes I've ever done. So many different terrains. Not 8 miles though. About 12.5mi round trip.

Sun Aug 21 2016

Such an amazing hike to breathtaking views! It's a must-do hike! Checking from other sources and my tracking, this is about 12 miles out-and-back, not 8 miles! Regardless, it's so amazing out there that you forget how far you've hiked! Going up to Panhandle Gap, there was a lot of snow so be prepared for an adventure. I went in late July and apparently it was too early for wildflowers at this elevation...

Thu Aug 11 2016

Moderate to strenuous. Great trail, great views!

Sun Jun 05 2016

Views were spectacular! Snowy as trail ascends, but well worth it!

Sun May 01 2016

I just wanna know is that safe for me to go by myself in that trail? I never been there and I have no idea how it will be .

Tue Dec 29 2015

We started this trail at Narada Falls, walked a few tenths of a mile to the sign that gave directions to the lake (The arrows on the sign were pretty ambiguous and we were unsure if were chose the right path - we ended up being lucky). We followed the wonderland trail for 1.5 miles to reflection lake through about 6 inches of fresh snowfall and more hardened snow underneath. It was a beautiful trail with a lot of switchbacks for the first 1/2 mile that take you up the mountain. The trail levels out after that. .3 miles from the lake you cross a road and follow signs to the lake. The lake was beautiful with all the snow. The trail was tough considering it was the first trail I did with snow and was not prepared clothing or shoe-wise. The toughest part of the hike was climbing back up the steps at the falls to the parking lot on the way back.

Wed Aug 26 2015

Did the 1.5 extension to Panhandle Gap. The smoke was cleared enough to get a good look at Mt. Adams and spy Mt. Hood through the clouds. 12 miles round trip from trail head to top of Panhandle, with approximately 3,000 feet elevation gain.

Wed Aug 05 2015

So far this is the longest hike I have done, it was last Autumn. The colors were vibrant and beautiful.

Sun Jul 26 2015

Well travelled and well maintained (WTA was working when I came through). It was not very difficult, I would rate it mostly a blue with a few black areas thrown in. Mellow start through mature forest along the fryingpan creek then gradually steepening towards Summerland. Bugs were not bad, although I kept a quick pace, and the trail was not terribly crowded. Approaching Summerland the trail ascends sharply up several switchbacks. I ran into a couple of beautiful bucks who had no intention of making way, so I waited. At Summerland the trail opens up into alpine meadows and immediately into barren rocky terrain. Although the trail is rocky it is well kept and easy to navigate. The trails meanders through a glacier-scraped hanging valley past the remnants of receded ice, green lakes, and 2-300 foot waterfalls. The last ascent to the gap required more carefully placed footsteps across boulders and loose shale and gravel. The 'gap' is a saddle between two small peaks below Little Tahoma Peak. The trail continues beyond that over rolling tundra and rocks. 13.5 miles round trip.

Thu Jul 16 2015

Beautiful day! The flowers were blooming and the mountain was clear.

Sat Jul 04 2015

between this and emerald Ridge, my favorite parts of the Wonderland trail.

5 months ago

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