Carbon Glacier Trail / Wonderland Trail

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Elevation Gain988ft
Trailhead Elevation4,130ft
Elevation Min/Max3270/4130ft
Elevation Start/End4130/4130ft

Carbon Glacier Trail / Wonderland Trail

Carbon Glacier Trail / Wonderland Trail is a hiking trail in Pierce County, Washington. It is within Mount Rainier National Park. It is three miles long and begins at 4,130 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.5 miles with a total elevation gain of 988 feet. Along the trail there are a cliff and a viewpoint. Near the end of the trail are a bicycle parking, restrooms, and information guideposts. This trail connects with the following: Wonderland Trail, Wonderland Trail, Carbon River Suspension Bridge, Carbon Glacier Trail / Northern Loop Trail / Wonderland Trail (Detour) and Carbon River Trail.

Carbon Glacier Trail / Wonderland Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Day Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park (The Mountaineers Books)
Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
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"Though the trail is lovely, it’s not exactly a thrill—not until you reach the end of the route. There, you’ll find yourself swinging on a cable suspension bridge and cooling your heels on an actual glacier. Getting to those highlights, you’ll trek along an old miners’ road paralleling the Carbon River upstream. This frothy river boasts some serious white water, but it’s not because of the rapids (which are generally small and not too frothy). Rather, the whiteness of the water comes from all the powder-fine silt ground up by the moving glacier. This water, known as “glacier milk,” is deathly cold (remember, it’s melted glacier ice from just a few miles upstream), so regardless of the heat, steer clear of the river itself." Read more

Carbon Glacier Trail / Wonderland Trail Reviews

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The trail is so beautiful at the end of July! My husband and I enjoyed this trail very much and the awesome 1/2 way point of the suspension bridge. However let me warn you that this used to be a 6.5 mile hile to and back. Back in 2006 floods have damaged the roads. So instead of starting at the trail head you have to pretty much park your vehicle by the Carbon River Ranger Station. It is about 5 miles to get to the actual trailhead. The first 5 miles is all flat so not too strenuous until you get to the acual trail head. I see that some of the other hikers used bikes to get to the trailhead faster. My husband I walked the 5 miles and then the 3.5 miles to the suspension bridge so coming back was a total of 17 miles! Whew! We started late around 2pm so we wanted to get back by 8pm. It was a total of 6 hours for our hike because we moving at a brisk pace for most of it. We stoped for breaks to take pics and enjoy the suspension bridge and lovely views of the Carbon Glacier. It is the day after and my legs are still sore. The last mile was tough becuse I wasn't expecting a 17 mile hike but only a 6.5 mile trek. It was a beautiful hike and the trails are nicely maintained. There are tons of log crossings over slow streams and even a raging river! We took over 80 pictures of all the lovely sceneries. It is quite the work-out! We can also tell this trail is very popular because we passed many of the morning hikers coming back.
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As another person posted, the road is very bad and the contrast between shade/sun made a spinal adjustment at the end of the trip a requirement.

We first stopped at Ipsut falls, very nice. Then went up the Carbon Trail to the bridge. It was hot on this side of the river - I'd suggest crossing early in the day (more on this later) and using the North Trail instead, returning on this trail.

The bridge was fantastic - too bad the glacier is receeding. We took a right off the bridge and climbed steeply toward the glacier. We got tired, eventually, snapped some pics and returned to the bridge for lunch.

There, we ran into some other hikers who said that water was coming over a log bridge on the Northern trail. Undeterred, and probably because my oldest daughter refused to go over the "Indiana Jones memorial bridge of death", we went down the north trail to return. Glad we did it - much more scenic and cooler. After running through numerous creeks, waterfalls (including one hidden one) we needed to cross the carbon. One bridge was in serious trouble, with flow crashing it hard. We made a safety line and got everyone across safely, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you have some prowness. I spoke with another hiker who said it was an afternoon phenomenon - as the heat melts the glacier faster, the water level rises and impacts this bridge.

All in all, I was expecting a nice hike but received a spectacular one instead. One hint: the north trail is MUCH nicer than the carbon river trail.
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The road from the Park Entrance to the trail head was very bumpy and hard to manouver, the light filtering through the trees made it hard to spot all the bumps.
The trail was on excellent condition, and the views were quite amazing. There were lots of people on the trail, which became a problem when crossing the bridge. The bridge rule is "one person at a time, one group at a time;" however, many people were too impatient to respect this rule.
The glacier itself seems to be receding, a rather sad thing to witness. A couple of unbelievably dumb people went down to the glacier itself. While they were down by the glacier, a huge avalanche fell on one side of it. The two guys were lucky enough to get out of there unharmed, a few feet separated them from the rock and ice shower.
On the way back we stopped at the Ipsut waterfall and spotted some deer grazing around the area.
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This trail is in great shape currently. It follows one side of the Carbon River up to the glacier (big and brown) where you cross the river on a bouncy one-person-at-a-time suspension bridge. On the return trip I'd suggest descending past the suspension bridge to where the trail crosses the river on log foot bridges. These probably get washed out every spring, but they were in place this weekend even though there was a ribbon on the sign saying they were gone since Sept.11. You will see no one on that side and the trail is quite scenic.

Carbon Glacier Trail / Wonderland Trail Photos

Trail Information

Mount Rainier National Park
Nearby City
Mount Rainier National Park
Skill Level
Mount Rainier National Park
Local Contacts
Green Trails Mount Rainier West, No. 269
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018