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Klapatche Park

Difficulty: strenuous overnighter

19.5 miles

Elevation gain: 4400'

Max elevation: 5970'

Camps: South Puyallup River, Klapatche Park

First hiked by me: 2020

Klapatche Park is one of the most fabled campsites along the Wonderland Trail. Most Wonderland camps are quiet places in the forest, at locations chosen to maximize shelter and preservation of wilderness while leaving the big views for the trail itself. A few of the camps, though, are themselves special places, rather than just somewhere to sleep in between one trail day and the next. Summerland. Indian Bar. Klapatche Park. These are names of legend to Rainier backpackers.

Klapatche Park is the most remote of these great campsites, located on the rugged west side of Mount Rainier. Along the Wonderland it is 15 miles north of Longmire, or 16.5 south of Mowich Lake. There are no trailheads on the Wonderland between Longmire and Mowich, but Klapatche Park can also be accessed from the Westside Road, which is the route described here.

There are multiple choices along this hike:

I've described the first part of this route, from the Westside Road trailhead to South Puyallup River Camp, separately as South Puyallup Pipe Organ. Once on the Wonderland you'll switchback steeply uphill, onto a ridge above the trees with great views to the south, then descend slightly to St. Andrews Lake.

From St. Andrews Lake to Klapatche Park is a fairly level 3/4 mile. The water source at Klapatche is Aurora Lake, which is notorious for drying up toward the end of the summer, shrinking to a muddy puddle wriggling with tadpoles. You'll probably want to carry water from St. Andrews Lake unless it's early in the season.

Once at Klapatche, sit by Aurora Lake and gaze at the mountain framed so nicely behind it. Two of the four campsites can even see the summit (such as it is on this western side of the mountain, which looks strangely collapsed lacking the usual summit cone) from inside your tent! Or if you turn 180°, the ground drops away below Klapatche Ridge with views reaching all the way to Seattle on a clear day. Just don't overshoot when returning to your tent after a midnight toilet trip, or it'd be you that's dropping away :-)

The St. Andrews Creek Trail is less dramatic than the South Puyallup / Wonderland route to Klapatche, offering only peek-a-views from forest. It descends along the top of Klapatche Ridge, then switchbacks down a very steep hillside, ironically only meeting up with its namesake where the trail ends at the Westside Road. Although well maintained, this remote path is so little used that there were wildflowers attempting to grow directly on it. Apologies to those I trod on.

Near the St. Andrews Creek / Westside Road junction, a pleasant 1/4 mile side loop leads to Denman Falls. The viewpoint is partially obstructed, but it's worth visiting if you're in the area with time to spare.

Wonderland Trail between South Puyallup and St. Andrews Lake

Tokaloo Spire (above St. Andrews Lake) beneath a lenticular summit cloud

St. Andrews Lake, still frozen when I visited in July

St. Andrews Lake in October

Wonderland Trail between St. Andrews and Aurora Lakes

Evening light at Klapatche Park

Aurora Lake (at Klapatche Park) during an unusually snowy July

Aurora Lake, partially dried up, in October

Denman Falls