Feb. 22—Mount Rainier National Park will offer online trip planning and reservations on recreation.gov for the June 1 through Sept. 20 peak hiking season.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see real-time site availability and secure definitive backcountry trips for the popular Wonderland Trail and other locations. While the park has offered advance reservations for wilderness camping and climbing for over 20 years, the 2021 shift to fully online reservations will allow visitors greater control over their itinerary and earlier notification of a confirmed trip, according to a press release from the park.
The park will retain one third of all available sites for “walk-up” reservations throughout the summer.
Mount Rainier National Park receives about 7,500 requests for climbing and backpacking trips every year. On average, about 2,700 of those requests are for the celebrated Wonderland Trail. However, the park’s federally designated wilderness can accommodate only 600 to 700 reservations for the Wonderland Trail every summer.
“Visitors to the Mount Rainier Wilderness have the opportunity to travel through a wild and largely undeveloped backcountry environment, and permit limits allow us to manage overnight use to protect the park’s fragile resources and ensure that the visitor experience is maintained over time,” stated Acting Superintendent Tracy Swartout. “We are excited to embark on this pilot project which attempts to improve the process for obtaining backcountry camping reservations within the park.”
Outdoor enthusiasts will have three options to acquire a backcountry or climbing permit for overnight trips during the peak season, June 1 through Sept. 30.
— Option one: Starting Tuesday, March 2, through Sunday, March 14, visitors may apply for the Early Access Lottery by going to the Mount Rainier National Park page on Recreation.gov. The Early Access Lottery is based on a randomized process to provide an equal opportunity for each applicant to be selected. If selected, successful lottery applicants will be assigned a date and time to book their proposed reservation online during the Early Access Period (March 22-April 21).
— Option two: General access (also called the general on-sale) for advanced reservations will be available from Tuesday, April 27, through Sept. 28 for booking without an appointment online. Visitors can learn more about what to expect and how to prepare for similar on-sale events through Recreation.gov.
— Option three: As in previous years, approximately one-third of all available sites will be held for walk-up permits, which can be obtained up to 24 hours in advance of a trip at Wilderness Information Centers from Friday, May 28, through Monday, Oct. 11.
While the lottery system reduces the number of users competing for a site simultaneously during the early access period, users will still face competition for available sites and will need to plan out their preferred itinerary prior to making any reservation. Early access period users will be able to login as early as March 22 to view availability and plan their trip, but users will not be able to reserve their permit until their assigned date and time. Visitors will need to ensure that the itinerary they select is realistic and takes into account their entire party’s fitness, the challenging terrain and seasonal snowpack.
Visitors wishing to make reservations online are encouraged to set up a free account on recreation.gov prior to attempting to make a reservation.