Meadows abundant with subalpine wildflowers, breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and stunning sunsets along the way to Klapatche Park
|Camping in Klapatche Park|
Named for one of the greatest Puyallup chiefs of all time, Klapatche Park is one of the greatest spots to spend the night along the Wonderland Trail. The late legendary Northwest guidebook author Harvey Manning called the backcountry campsites at Klapatche Park the most beautiful on the entire Wonderland Trail. I concur-and unlike other breathtaking camping spots along the Wonderland Trail, this one is far from roads leaving it out of reach to the park's legions of day hikers. At Klapatche Park you're guaranteed a wilderness experience-a chance to share this breathtaking park with few fellow hikers and plenty of Rainier's wild residents. From your snug campsite you can not only watch the evening and morning sunlight dance off of the mountain's glaciers perfectly mirrored in Aurora Lake below-but also stand witness to bears, mountain goats, and deer frolicking in the surrounding high parkland meadows.
|Evening at Aurora Lake in Klapatche Park|
Begin your trip up the road with cliffy Mount Wow hovering above you on the left and thundering Tahoma Creek roiling by you on your right. Slowly ascend passing the Tahoma Creek Trail after about 1.8 miles. Just beyond come to the old Tahoma Vista Picnic Area. The views and the grounds are quickly be reclaimed by feisty vegetation. At 3.8 miles, come to 3,900-foot Round Pass complete with bike racks for securing your bike. Here a trail left leads .8 mile to popular Lake George and camping-and then continues to Gobblers Knob and the Glacier View Wilderness. The road continues north. You want to head right onto the Round Pass Trail into cool old-growth descending to a junction with the South Puyallup Trail. Take this trail right paralleling the South Puyallup River and eventually passing beneath the Colonnades; cliffs of beautiful columnar andesite. At 6.0 miles you'll come to the South Puyallup campsites-and shortly afterwards the Wonderland Trail.
|Bear grass line the Wonderland Trail|
At 8.7 miles reach a high notch (el. 5,950-feet) and then slowly descend into a rocky basin. After crossing a small creek, begin climbing once more to soon reach gorgeous St Andrews Park. Here, sparkling St Andrews Lake invites lingering and lounging. Don sunglasses to take in the view of glistening Mount Rainier rising behind the sparking lake. Awe too at the impressive Tokaloo Spire. Near the lake's outlet, an unmarked trail heads right to a smaller, higher lake tucked in a remote basin. Feel free to explore.
|Aurora Lake in Klapatche Park|
The inviting campsites are located on a small wooded knoll just above the lake. A spring just to the east of the lake (which sometimes runs dry by late season) provides good drinking water. Set up camp and await the light show on Mount Rainier. Aurora means dawn in Latin-and watching reflections in the lake of dawn's early light dancing upon the glaciers of Rainier is stunning. But the evenings are even grander! Indeed one of the most enchanting spots along the Wonderland Trail!
NOTE: Overnight permits are required and can be acquired by making a reservation or in person at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center (360) 569-4453; www.nps.gov/mora. Special rules: No Fires-use camp stove. Dogs prohibited.
Trailhead directions: From Ashford park entrance, continue east 1.0 mile turning left onto Westside Road. Then continue 3.3 miles to road gate and trailhead.
Craig Romano, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert
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Distance: 21.4 miles, RT
Hiking Time: 2+ days
Elevation Gain: 4,600 ft
High Point: 5,950 ft
Snow Free: Mid-July - October
GPS Waypoints: Trailhead: N 46° 46' 47.88", W 121° 53' 6.48"Campsites at Klapatche Park: N 46° 50' 8.34", W 121° 52' 38.52"
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Visit Rainier is a not-for-profit, non-membership destination marketing organization that promotes tourism in the gateway communities around Mt. Rainier.
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