1. WONDERLAND TRAIL IN MOUNT RAINIER
Location: Washington State
Length: 93-mile loop
Days on the Trail: 7 to 14
All the attention at Mount Rainier National Park is on the 14,410-foot summit. For good reason: The active (though slumbering) volcano rises like an island in the sky above the rain clouds and evergreens of the surrounding Cascades, and routes to the top range from the standard slog up Disappointment Cleaver to more difficult alpine ascents up Liberty Ridge. But the park encompasses more than the peak, and the nearly hundred-mile-long Wonderland Trail circles the mountain and makes for what just might be the best life-list backpacking trip in the national parks.
Along the way, the route explores a wilderness far different than the snowfields and crevasses high above. Down here you’ll be immersed in a world of green and meadows rife with wild flowers, as well as foraging herds of elk and the occasional black bear. But that iconic peak is always towering above it all, a massive sentinel of snow and rock that dominates the skyline.
Dive Deeper: There are 20 designated campsites that the park maintains along the route. Be sure to stay at the serene Golden Lakes site, named for the chain of lakes here that catch the glow of sunset.