Trail history includes overuse, flooding

One of the great things about a trek like the Wonderland Trail is it will take you to places where you’ll feel like few have gone before.

The truth is, of course, that this 93-mile trail has a rich history and sees thousands of people hike at least part of it every year.

Here’s a brief history of Mount Rainier National Park’s most famous trail:

1884: A year after James Longmire discovered natural mineral springs while searching for lost horses, he built Rainier’s first trail to the springs. Many more trails, including those that would eventually form the Wonderland Trail, would follow.

1899: President William McKinley signs a bill making Mount Rainier the nation’s fifth national park.

1915: Linking existing trails and native American and prospector routes, the Wonderland Trail is completed to give rangers greater ability to patrol the park. The trail around the mountain quickly becomes popular among hikers.

1920: It’s about this time when visitors and the park start referring to the trail by its current name, Wonderland.

1960s: A boom in hiking popularity leads to damage to vegetation in popular areas along the trail such as Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds, leaving the park scrambling for ways to protect the land.

1973: Superintendent Daniel Tobin announces a backcountry management plan that eliminates horse use and backcountry campfires in most areas. Backcountry permits are also required for all overnight visitors.

1990: Flooding washes out the Westside Road. For many this eliminates realistic day hiking trips to scenic areas on the western section of the Wonderland Trail.

2006: Flooding forces the closure of the park, does extensive damage to the Wonderland Trail and washes out the Carbon River Road. With the road closed, the Wonderland loses an easy access to the trailhead, but gains a new backcountry campsite at Ipsut Creek.

A mile of the trail near the Carbon Glacier is destroyed and the trail now uses a short section of the Northern Loop trail on the opposite side of the Carbon River. Depending which map you use, this change makes the trail either 0.1 mile shorter (National Geographic Maps) or 0.3 mile longer (Green Trails Maps).