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Kids Hike the Wonderland Trail

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Sep 09, 2008 11:15 AM |

In the September 2008 issue of Washington Trails, WTA member Colleen Ponto wrote about hiking with her three children on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. It was a fantastic article, as Colleen described the joys and challenges of long-distance backpacking with kids.

Her family didn't complete the 93-mile circuit around the mountain as planned, but this August they returned to the Wonderland Trail for Part Two of their adventure. Congratulations on completing the trail (and having a fun time doing it!).

Here's Colleen's report on the Wonderland, Part Two:


Family and Rainier

"In the September issue of Washington Trails I wrote about the joys and challenges of hiking the Wonderland Trail on Mount Rainier with kids, and as that issue went to press we were preparing to return to the Wonderland Trail to continue where we left off last year. I can now report that my husband, three children (now ages 11, 15, and 18), and I are home from the Wonderland Trail after having successfully completed the hike we began last year. We hiked 45 miles counterclockwise from Mowich Lake to Box Canyon in 8 days during the second week of August. 

We began our hike in rain, but by the second afternoon the weather improved and for the remainder of the hike the sky was bright blue and the temperature was warm. The trip was glorious, a feast for the eyes. From sunrise to sunset, day after day, Mount Rainier greeted us around every turn. Even the full moon cast a beautiful glow upon the mountain. And because of the late snowmelt this year, there was an abundance of snow, waterfalls, and alpine wildflowers.

The lessons we learned last year such as upgrading our tents and hiking shorter segments each day so that the children could have more time to play at each camp made the trip more enjoyable for everyone. We still need to work on lightening our backpack loads--but that will come as we pack smarter and over time invest in new and lighter backpacking gear.


Kids Hiking Wonderland Trail

And the children did great. We learned how to hike and camp together as a team so that each person could leverage his or her own strengths while assisting those who were struggling a bit. The bond we developed as a family and hiking team as we lived in nature was a bonus, a long-term benefit for sure.

We achieved our primary goal, not to complete the Wonderland Trail (that was a secondary goal) but rather to help our children come to know, love, and appreciate the natural world so that they care for and protect it for generations of living species to come. 

Finally, the joys of hiking with children far outweigh the challenges (especially in good weather). And thanks to my children, the greatest joy of all was the reawakening of my own sense of wonder.

--Colleen Ponto

Photos by Colleen Ponto. Top: Posing in front of Rainier, and bottom, hiking a portion of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail.