Walk-Up Only for Wilderness Camping Permits at Mount Rainier in 2016
Mount Rainier National Park announced today that the park will only be processing wilderness camping and climbing permits on a first-come, first-served basis in 2016.
If you were planning to apply (or had already faxed or mailed in your application) for a wilderness permit at Mount Rainier for the coming season, your planning approach will need to be a little more flexible this year.
Mount Rainier National Park announced today that the park will only be processing wilderness camping and climbing permits on a first-come, first-served basis in 2016. This includes permits for hiking the Wonderland Trail. Normally, 70 percent of wilderness permits could be reserved in advance.
The park reports that the change in procedure for 2016 comes as a result of a critical failure of the park's existing reservation system during a recent storm event. The park has been working with the University of Washington Information School on developing an new online system to replace the mail-in and fax-based system of the past, but it is not scheduled to launch until March 2017.
"The ability to make a reservation for popular hikes in the park, especially the high demand backcountry campsites on the Wonderland Trail, is an important visitor service that offers certainty for those planning an overnight hike. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide that service for this summer," said Park Superintendent Randy King.
The park will be contacting the thousands of people who have already applied for their permits.
Campground camping not impacted
The wilderness reservation system failure does not affect the public's ability to reserve campsites at Ohanapecosh and Cougar Rock Campgrounds through recreation.gov.
How to secure a walk-up wilderness permit
Backcountry camping in Mount Rainier requires a wilderness permit. This year, first-come, first-served (also know as walking-up) is the only way to secure one. That means that all backpacking trips will first require a stop at a ranger station the day before or the day you plan to head out on trail.
For multi-day trips with many camps (like the Wonderland Trail), you may want to have a few different backup options in mind, in case one of the itineraries you're hoping for is already booked.
"All opportunities for wilderness camping in the park will be still be available this summer, just on a walk-in basis" said Superintendent King. "Visitors shouldn't let the lack of a permit reservation system keep them home. The park employees who staff the Wilderness Information Centers work hard to help people and can generally put together a permit for those who can be flexible."
More tips from the park about walk-up permits:
Permits can be issued up to one day prior to your trip start date, or on the start date.
Permits must be obtained in person at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center (7:30 am - 5:00 pm), White River Wilderness Information Center (7:30 am - 5:00 pm), or the Carbon River Ranger Station (hours vary, call in advance).
There is no fee for a first-come, first-served permit.
What to have ready when you talk to ranger:
- An emergency contact phone number
- The license plate number of any vehicle being left behind in the park
- The make, model and color of the vehicle
- Your itinerary (and backup plans)
- The number of people hiking with you
Climbing permits for Paradise area routes require registration at the Climbing Information Center at Paradise. Emmons/Liberty Ridge route climbs require registration at the White River Wilderness Information Center at the White River Entrance. Climbs initiated from the northwest corner of the park (Carbon River & Mowich Lake) must register with staff at the Carbon River Ranger Station.
Why wilderness permits?
Backcountry (or wilderness) permits, serve a different purpose than passes like the Northwest Forest Pass or Discover Pass.
"The permit system for overnight backcountry camping is in place to ensure a quality visitor experience and protect a cherished wilderness resource," said King.
By limiting the number of visitors to highly popular or fragile areas, like along the Wonderland Trail, permits not only preserve the environment but also the experience of hikers themselves. This allows backpackers to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of nature without a crowd.
Some of these permits are free, while others come with small fees. Some are seasonal, and others are required year-round. Permits may be confusing and difficult to secure. But in the end, they serve a valuable purpose.