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Wonderland Trail Day 3: North Puyallup River to Golden Lakes

Golden Lakes

After a long, tough second day on the Wonderland Trail, this day would feel like a walk in the park. A six mile, uphill walk in the park, but with only one steady climb. We’d be hiking half the distance and climbing half the vertical gain of the previous day.

Day 3: Golden Lakes
Distance: 6.1 miles
Time: 3.75 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation +/-: 1,836’/624′
The trail begins heading west on the north side of North Puyallup River, gradually climbing higher up the slope. This well-forested path was appreciated, especially since it was hot and humid.

There were no views on the first few miles, just beautiful forest and mushrooms.

The Trail Provides

The well-known saying suggests that when you are feeling hot, tired, or down, there’s something around the corner to lift your spirits. On the Wonderland Trail, that something was often the stunning views. Today it was the discovery of wild blueberries. We found blueberries along the trail, bursting with juicy, tart flavor. We’d spy them as we hiked along the trail, pick a few and pop them into our mouths. They gave us a little boost each time we found them.

As we passed the four mile mark on GaiaGPS, the forest began thinning, opening up views of Mount Rainier.


Derek on the climb to Golden Lakes
Derek on the ascent to Golden Lakes

The sun was strong, and it was muggy. The sort of heat that saps your energy, and encourages you to take any rest breaks in the shade.

The final 1.5 miles was fairly flat, with a small descent to Golden Lakes. The first sign of the lakes was a rickety wood plan walkway to the old patrol cabin perched on the best spot overlooking the biggest and prettiest of the Golden Lakes. We dropped our packs here and explored the campsites.

We ended up scoring a campsite on the far side of the lake, on a hill with a view looking down the valley to the west. We setup camp, and wandered down to the lake. Jason was first to go in.

Golden Lakes
We swam out to the little island in the middle of Golden Lake.

We learned an important rule to remember on the Wonderland Trail. Whenever you get a chance to take a dip in a lake, take it.

The shallow water was warm and the lake bottom soft mud. As we swam out to the deep section, we would come across a section that was freezing cold. We made our way out to the tiny island in the middle of the lake, and found a balance between too cold and almost warm water.

Sunset from our Golden Lakes campsite
Sunset from our Golden Lakes campsite. Photo: Jason Fitzpatrick

A pretty perfect day on the trail.

North Puyallup River to Golden Lakes Map and Elevation Profile

Download file: day-3-north-puyallup-to-golden-lakes-8719-100948am(cleaned).gpx

Originally hiked on August 7, 2019 with Derek and Jason.

Back to Day 2  |  Continue to Day 4, Golden Lakes to South Mowich River

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