Volcanoes, Glaciers, and Wildflowers: Sunrise Area Trail Restoration, Mt. Rainier, Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13284A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Enjoy views of Mt Rainier, glaciers, and wildflower meadows
  • Hike and restore trails along the historic Wonderland Trail
  • Celebrate our week of service with a night at a nearby “woodland retreat”!


  • All meals, snacks, and cooking gear
  • Trail work tools and instruction on their use
  • Last day's stay at a cozy, rustic lodge near the park's S.W. entrance


DatesAug 10–17, 2013
Difficulty2 (out of 5)
StaffMeryon Nudelman

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Trip Overview

The Sharon Churchwell Fund is offering youth 18-25 years old a discount on this trip. Visit the Sharon Churchwell Fund page for more details.

The Trip

Mount Rainier (14,411 feet) is the centerpiece of Mount Rainier National Park's 378 square miles of rugged terrain on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains. It is located approximately 90 miles southeast of Seattle. At nearly three miles high, Rainier is the tallest and most significant snow-clad volcano in the contiguous United States, with one of the largest glacial systems radiating from a single peak anywhere in the world. The surrounding park is a diverse natural wonderland of dense forests, dazzling waterfalls, fields of wildflowers, tremendous snowfields, immense glaciers, and mountain lakes.

By the time Mount Rainier became the nation's fifth national park in 1899, wildlife and early settlers had created a basic system of trails, which laced the ridges and hills near the mountain.

We will be staying in the Sunrise area, located in the northeast quadrant of the park off of the historic Wonderland Trail. At an elevation of 6,400', the Sunrise visitor center is the highest destination reachable by car. Sunrise offers breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, Emmons Glacier (the largest surface area of any glacier in the lower 48), clear mountain lakes, and meadows of sweet-scented wildflowers at their peak in mid-August!

The Project

With only a small staff to maintain trails, the National Park Service has come to rely on volunteers to maintain a trail system impacted by heavy use and exposure to the elements, including heavy snow loads and freeze/thaw cycles. Our project will consist of “treadwork," which can include: re-grading and re-routing trails, building retaining walls, trail brushing and doing other maintenance that provides safe trails for the public to hike on. Participants will be trained to do this specific work and to safely use the tools. In the unlikely event that weather and snowpack conditions dictate a change of location, a similar project on other trails will be assigned.

We will hike to our work site each day. This moderate hike could range up to two miles each way. Work sites will be at around 6,600 feet, so participants should be prepared for the effects of higher elevation.


Day 1: We'll gather mid-afternoon at the Sunrise Visitor Center parking lot adjacent to the trailhead. From there we'll backpack in with our personal gear along a moderately easy 1.3-mile trail, then set up camp, eat dinner, make introductions, and have an orientation.

Days 2-3: Service Project

Day 4: Free Day for hiking, exploring, swimming, or relaxing

Days 5-6: Service Project

Day 7: Free Day. We'll break camp and hike out. You may choose your activity on the mountain during the day. In the afternoon, we'll check-in for our overnight stay in our private cabin at a woodland retreat center near the S.W./Paradise entrance of Mt Rainier. This is a beautiful 60-mile drive half way around the mountain from the Sunrise Visitor Center.  Upon arrival, you can explore the evergreen forest, relax by a blazing fireplace, enjoy a special dinner with Service Trip friends, and indulge in a warm shower and a cozy bed. There is also the option to soak in the outdoor hot tubs, steam in the sauna, and receive a massage for an additional fee.

Day 8: Breakfast and good-byes!

Some of our off-day hiking choices require driving to the trailheads. Participants will need to use their personal vehicles and/or carpool with others.  It is encouraged that everyone pitch in for the additional gas expense needed for these side trips.

The leader will have maps and great ideas to share when we’re together on the trip.




Getting There

From Seattle/SeaTac airport to the White River entrance, the drive time is approximately 2.5 hours and 88 miles. The return trip will take approximately two hours at 73 miles.

Participants must arrange transportation to the site. Rental cars are available in Seattle and at Seattle-Tacoma airport. Carpooling is recommended, and the leader will provide an e-mail participant list to facilitate this process. Specific directions to our meeting place will be given prior to the trip.

National Park entrance and camping fees will not be required.

Accommodations and Food

There will be a 1.3 mile hike in, with a slight elevation gain on the way to our campsite. Though just over a mile from the visitor center, Sunrise Camp, our home for the week, is considered a backcountry campground.  Running water is not available, although rangers will re-stock a generous water supply daily for us so we will have plenty available for drinking, cooking and washing. “Sun Showers” are a good option for bathing in the wilderness. We will set up a private shower tarp for this purpose. There is a lake very close to camp, but it has been declared a protected site for wildlife, so we are not allowed to swim in or use its water for any purpose. There is an outhouse available near our group site.

We will be practicing Leave No Trace principles, which include: no campfires, minimum impacts on the land, and packing out all garbage.

For the safety of ourselves and the wildlife, all food and anything with a scent must be locked up at all times, and not left unattended in tents. Bear-proof containers for group food/cooking equipment and bear poles for individual use/toiletries, will be provided. You are welcome and encouraged to bring additional bear canisters if you have them.

We encourage you to take the view that food is part of the adventure! Our healthy, creative and plentiful meals are prepared by an experienced cook. Trip participants should expect to take a turn in helping with food preparation and clean up. Our meals will be largely vegetarian, with some meat options available. Before applying for the trip, people with food allergies and/or strong food preferences should contact the cook to see if accommodations can be made. Our first meal will be dinner at the campsite on Saturday, August 10, and our last meal will be breakfast on Saturday, August 17.

Trip Difficulty

Participants will all be able to work at their own pace.  Confidence in the use of tools, attention to proper body mechanics and safety will be our main concerns during the workday. Our work should be successful, satisfying and fun. Our job sites will be at altitudes up to 6,600 feet, and we will work from about 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. with lunch, breaks and time before dinner to wash up, explore or relax. The project is considered strenuous. Participants should plan a training regimen in advance of the trip for maximum enjoyment of the fresh mountain air and satisfying work.

Equipment and Clothing

Participants will need standard camping gear such as a backpack, tent, a warm sleeping bag and pad, trusted raingear, a warm fleece, and sturdy boots. Even in the summer it can get very cold on the mountain when the sun sets. Work gloves, long sleeves, and long pants are needed on the work project for safety.

Cooking equipment and food are provided by Sierra Club. Participants need only bring personal dishes and utensils, a hard plastic container to carry their lunches in, and containers to carry at least two liters of water to the work site.

A complete equipment/clothing list will be sent to registered participants.



The Northwest Interpretive Association (NWIA) is a clearinghouse for books and maps of the area. Call (360) 569-2211 ext. 3320 to obtain a catalog.

  • Comprehensive Map: Trails Illustrated, Mt. Rainier National Park #217
  • USGS 7.5-minute Topographic Maps: Mt. Rainier East, WA; Sunrise, WA


  • Crandell, Dwight, The Geologic Story of Mount Rainier. United States Geological Survey, Washington, D.C., 1973.
  • Filley, Bette, Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail. Dunamis House, Issaquah, WA, 1993.



The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club.

On Mount Rainier's rocky slopes sit more than a cubic mile of glaciers, more than on any other single peak in the contiguous United States. For thousands of years these masses of snow and ice have served to stabilize the climate and water flow around Washington. Now they serve a new purpose as indicators of regional climate change. Since the late 1970s the glaciers have melted faster than they accumulate, and their retreat has attested to rising temperatures in the Pacific Northwest. This evidence, coupled with record melting of arctic glaciers in 2005 and the shrinking of Antarctic glaciers, points to the monumental change in the world's climate.

Compounding the rapid change in climate is the fact that ice reflects sunlight efficiently, while land and water absorb it. As glaciers and ice floes continue to melt around the world and expose land and ocean, they create a positive-feedback loop that helps to warm the Earth. These changes call for humans to ask what effects the climate may have on us and what effects we have on climate change, and what we wish to do about it.



Meryon Nudelman has called Olympia Washington home for the past 30 years. She is an avid hiker, gardener, and massage practitioner by trade. She holds a degree in Environmental Education and enjoys sharing her knowledge of NW natural history. Her greatest joy in life is exploring wild places on this earth and celebrating its wonders with others. She is thrilled to be leading a Sierra Club service trip this year on a mountain she deeply loves and respects!


Didi Toaspern is very excited to be cooking at Mt Rainier! Her previous Sierra Club adventure in this magical National Park was in 1985, and it was from this service trip that she was recruited to be a volunteer leader. Since then the majority of her trips have been in the Klamath Mountain region of Northern California, but she has also led or cooked on trips in other parts of California, and in Idaho, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming. For her, service trips are a magical combination of challenge, friendship, exertion, and fun.

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