The Wonderland Trail is 150 km of mostly single track that circumnavigates Mount Rainier with over 7,230 metres (23,700 feet) of cumulative elevation gain (plus equal loss of course). It’s normally done as a 10 day hike, but many will run it over 3 days with support from crew who can meet runners at several drive-in campsites along the way.
My friend Adam and I figured we would try to tackle it completely unsupported, meaning we would have to carry all of our food, cooking and camping gear, in around 40 hours. This presented some unique logistical challenges that would require quite a bit of planning and research into some new equipment.
There are some great trip reports and comprehensive hiking guides online, so I’m going to focus below more on the logistics of running the trail unsupported, for those who might consider doing the same.
The Howe Sound Crest Trail is a 29 km route that starts at Cypress Mountain, passing through the Lions and over multiple summits, before ending at Porteau Cove. It offers spectacular views of Howe Sound, the surrounding mountains, and beautiful turquoise lakes, while covering a variety of terrain.
The route would normally be tackled as an overnight trip, but it can be comfortably run in about 8-9 hours by a reasonably fit trail runner (including lots of stops for photos). Starting at Cypress makes it a net downhill that still offers almost 2,000 metres of elevation gain, but running it North to South from Porteau Cove is definitely an option for an added challenge. In either case, running it as a point-to-point with a car drop makes the most sense. Another option is to simply do the route as an out-and-back from Cypress to the Lions, arguably the nicest part of the trail, making it a much easier ‘half-day’ run.
There is a place not far from Vancouver where impeccable singletrack trails wind through lush pine forests, alpine meadows and lakes, and along a series of interconnected wind-swept ridges with spectacular panoramic views.
The Spruce Lake Protected Area in the South Chilcotin Mountain Range is located just 150 km north of Whistler, and 100 km west of Lillooet, B.C, an area which is nearly 72,000 hectares in size.
I was invited to tag along with friends Julie, Glenn, Ward, Jackie and Chloe for the August long weekend. The plan was to make the 5 hour drive on Thursday afternoon, then to run all day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, returning to our campsite at the Tyax Resort each night. The icing on the cake was that we’d be taking the float plane from the lodge on Sunday morning and getting dropped off at Spruce Lake so that we could run out.
As a run or fast hike, it takes around 2 hours to summit and is between 6.5 – 9.8 km, depending on your route, with roughly 1,000 metres of elevation gain. It climbs almost double as high as the nearby Stawamus Chief, giving you a great view back down at the massive monolith. Karl and I recently did the hike starting from the Shannon Falls parking lot which is definitely the way to go.