Top 5 Practical Qs About Hiking the Wonderland Trail with Kids
Yes, you CAN take kids on the Wonderland Trail.
Yes, you CAN take babies on the Wonderland Trail.
It takes extra effort, but can be an utterly AMAZING time together as a family! (Watch our video for proof!) If you’re planning or considering a trip on the Wonderland Trail, especially with kids, here are the practical details you’re after.
Q#1- WHAT ABOUT BABIES– specifically DIAPERS & WIPES?
- When we hiked it, we used diapers for our 18 month old through each day, and our 3 year old at night. We ended up averaging 4 diapers/day, total. (One for my 3 year old, 3 for the 18 month old.) For younger babies I imagine we would go through more diapers, but they would also be smaller-size diapers, so it probably is about the same in terms of space and weight.
- We used about one pack of wipes for both boys through the entire trip. We broke that up into 2 portions, bringing half with us from the start and putting half in the first cache.
- What about cloth diapers? You can do it, but the same rules apply to human waste, as far as “leaving no trace.” And no washing out diapers in water sources! (You’ll need to wait to get to the places with running water. Or collect water, and carry to the right distance away from water sources, and then follow the same procedures for adult bathroom: dig a cathole to the right depth–typically 6+ inches–, dump the waste, mix with moss/leaves/pine needles, and re-cover.) Many even hard-core cloth diaper users opt to use disposables for this trip because of the weight and hassle of doing cloth on the trail.
- You CAN cache diapers and wipes, to lighten your load, so definitely do that! (See Q#3, below, to learn about caching.)
- Pack out all diapers. Obviously, you can’t bury or leave diapers in the backcountry. We used lightweight plastic baggies like this to seal off the stinkyness and had no issues with smell in our packs. I carried 20 of those baggies, carried in one sandwich-sized ziplock, and used a few per day, tying them up to seal in the smell.)
- Know where the trash cans are (see Q#4 below), and drop your used diapers as soon as you can.
Q#2- GOING TO THE BATHROOM IN THE WOODS?
This is something we practiced beforehand, especially with the younger few kids. I wanted them to be very comfortable with the whole idea of pooping in the woods, before we hit the Wonderland Trail. So we practiced on our hikes leading up to it.
A few tips that made it easier for us:
- Try different approaches. Some we tried: (1) find a tree about 3-8 inches around, where they can grab the trunk, hold on, lean back (downhill), and poop that way. (2) hold mom/dad’s hands and lean bottom back. (3) Squat with pants off and legs REALLY far apart. (4) Sit on a fallen (horizontal) tree, stick your bottom WAY far off the back, lean your torso weight up onto your knees, and go that way.
- Girls need more help and practice than boys. Some women and girls like to use these to pee (and yes I mean to link to that; it’s better rated than the specialized contraptions for the same purpose); we opted for squatting. Pick your poison.
- Keep it simple & matter-of-fact. Use a trowel to dig the hole, help make it as quick as possible. No matter what, it’s going to feel silly and weird the first few times. Acknowledge that and move on. “This is what we do when we’re out in the backcountry.” Eventually, they’ll get the hang of it. By the end of the trip, they’ll be woods-pooping PROS.
Have a toilet kit:
- Trowel (don’t get the dollar tree one– the handle WILL break by the end of the trip. Ask me how I know.)– Some people use a wide-blade knife. Next time we’ll be taking a one-piece stainless steel trowel like this.
- Small hand sanitizer– you don’t need much of this, honestly. Even with 9 people, I think we had 3 small ones (our original + 1 stashed in each of our caches), and ended up using up less than 2 of them in total.
- Toilet paper (some people remove the cardboard TP tubes to save weight. We didn’t bother.)
- Lightweight plastic bags for packing out your TP
HOW MUCH TOILET PAPER SHOULD YOU BRING? For our family of 9, we went through about 1 roll of TP every 2-3 days. We’d packed 1/day, so we ended up WAY overpacking. Next time we go, as a family of 10, I’ll plan 4-5 rolls for our entire trip.
Q#3- WHAT IS CACHING?
Caching is a great way Mount Rainier National Park allows hikers to stash food, fuel, and consumable items around the trail, so you can spread out your supplies and lighten your load. With kids, this is particularly helpful, as your weight loads carried are going to be less than what you could do with only adults. At MRNP, they ask that you put your cached items in mice-proof containers. We used a combination of 5-gallon buckets & lids, and the Costco detergent plastic boxes that have nice tight-fit lids.
For the Wonderland Trail, you can cache at 4 locations:
- Mowich (drop off at Carbon River Ranger station)
- Sunrise (drop off at White River Ranger station), and
- White River
We did this on our trip… for food, drink mixes, fuel (white gas canisters for our stove), hand sanitizer, toilet paper, diapers, wipes, and cooking oil. This caching system definitely made our loads lighter and enabled us to do the trip as a family.
NOTE: If you cache, be sure your itinerary will allow you to get to the ranger station/visitor center before 5pm (or whenever they indicate when you drop off your caches). Our experience was that they are quick to get your cache boxes for you, but it would STINK to have to wait around in the morning to get it, rearrange your packs, and not set off until mid-morning or later.
Q#4- WHERE ARE THE BATHROOMS & TRASH CANS?
Some sort of privy or pit toilet is available at all 18 campsites along the Wonderland Trail. But these are VERY rustic toilets, and do not have running water. They are basically just a hole in the ground with a toilet seat over it. Some have a privacy wall; many do not.
Bathrooms with sinks and flushing toilets are located at:
- Sunrise Visitors Center (not on the WT, but a 1-2 mile detour)
- White River Campground
- Longmire Visitors Center
- Mowich Lake campground
Trash cans are located at all of the above, PLUS Box Canyon.
^^^ That information is particularly valuable if you are hiking with a baby in diapers. Of course you have to pack in and pack out diapers, so knowing where the trash cans are helps you to drop those heavy items as quickly as you can. The night before each anticipated trash-drop, we collected all the bits of trash from every pack/pocket/person.
*** Note: There are other trash cans and bathrooms in other places within MRNP (like Cougar Rock and Paradise), but not on the Wonderland Trail.
Q#5- WHAT IF WE HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY ON THE TRAIL?
- Know basic first aid. The more, the better. Even if you’ve done first aid classes before, bone up by watching a few YouTube videos about it & reminding yourself of basics.
- Think in advance what the most likely things would be. My guesses were: dehydration, sunstroke, hypothermia, fall, sprains, breaking a bone, young child “crashing,” energy-wise. Think through what your response to these would be. (Some we considered: what if a parent broke a leg 11 miles away from a ranger station? what if a child started throwing up? how will we prevent hypothermia if the temps drop fast?)
- Consider sharing your emergency-response plans with older kids, and even talk them through simple first aid concepts (i.e., use pressure to stop bleeding, how to make a splint). As we talked with our kids, we found that the older two (12 & 14) wanted to be briefed on common first aid issues. This helped set their minds at ease that we were ready to face the potential dangers of the trail.
- Always know where the nearest trailheads and ranger stations are.
Remember that these things can happen anytime, anywhere– not just on the trail– and don’t be overly anxious. Be prepared as best you’re able. Consider the things that are possible, but don’t stress yourself out.
GOT A QUESTION ABOUT KIDS’ CLOTHING? Here’s a complete list of what we took for our kids.
HAVE ANOTHER QUESTION about hiking the Wonderland Trail with kids? Ask it in the comments below!
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