Mount Rainier from Stevens Canyon Road
Mount Rainier, from a viewpoint near Lake Louise on the Stevens Canyon Road (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Mount Rainier (Təqʷuʔməʔ to the Puyallup) is per­haps the defin­ing nat­ur­al fea­ture of Wash­ing­ton State. For well over a cen­tu­ry, it has been pro­tect­ed as a nation­al park, and is con­sid­ered to be one of Amer­i­ca’s finest nation­al parks.

In recent years, it has been draw­ing more and more peo­ple dur­ing the sum­mer months. That heavy auto­mo­bile traf­fic and the over­crowd­ing it brings to key des­ti­na­tions with­in the park has become an increas­ing headache for the Nation­al Park Ser­vice to man­age. As a con­se­quence, NPS announced today it will be imple­ment­ing a reser­va­tion sys­tem for the park for the com­ing sum­mer sea­son.

“In recent years, it’s been too com­mon for vis­i­tors to sit in idling cars for a cou­ple of hours at the entrance sta­tions and then make laps through the park­ing lots hop­ing for an emp­ty park­ing space,” said Super­in­ten­dent Greg Dudgeon.

(I myself have wit­nessed mas­sive­ly long lines of cars try­ing to get up the road to Sun­rise on beau­ti­ful sum­mer days while dri­ving down from hik­ing Sour­dough Ridge or Bur­roughs Moun­tain, so I can attest to what Dud­geon says.)

“We are test­ing a sys­tem that will spread vis­i­ta­tion out through­out the day and sea­son to reduce crowd­ing,” Dud­geon explained. That sys­tem will be in oper­a­tion for most day­light hours dur­ing the park’s busy sea­son. Vis­i­tors will need to make a reser­va­tion between 7 AM and 3 PM in order to:

  • Enter the Par­adise Cor­ri­dor from either the Nisqually Entrance via State Route 706 or Stevens Canyon Entrance via State Route 123 from May 24th through Sep­tem­ber 2nd.
  • Enter the Sun­rise Cor­ri­dor at the White Riv­er Entrance via State Route 410 from July 3rd through Sep­tem­ber 2nd.

“Reser­va­tions can be made using or by call­ing 877–444-6777. Dates through July will be avail­able on begin­ning Feb­ru­ary 21st, 2024, for the Par­adise Cor­ri­dor and April 1st, 2024, for the Sun­rise Cor­ri­dor,” the Nation­al Park Ser­vice’s news release advis­es. “Reser­va­tions for dates in August through Labor Day will open on May 1st. In addi­tion to the reser­va­tions avail­able up to three months ahead, a block of reser­va­tions will be released each day through the sum­mer at 7 PM for use the fol­low­ing day.”

“Each reser­va­tion is for one per­son­al vehi­cle and will cost $2. The reser­va­tion will pro­vide a two-hour entry win­dow. For instance, vis­i­tors with a 9 AM reser­va­tion could enter the park between 9 AM and 11 AM.”

The reser­va­tion sys­tem won’t be in effect before 7 AM or after 3 PM, so if you’re an ear­ly bird and will­ing to time your arrival in the park for real­ly ear­ly in the morn­ing, you can still take a spon­ta­neous sum­mer trip to Sun­rise or Par­adise (but per­haps not both in the same day, unless you time your tran­sit to the oth­er side of the moun­tain so you’re going through the check­point after 3 PM).

Ten years ago, park vis­i­ta­tion was a bit over a mil­lion. Now it’s clos­er to 2 mil­lion. A vis­i­ta­tion man­age­ment sys­tem is clear­ly need­ed, and NPS plan­ning and out­reach iden­ti­fied a reser­va­tion sys­tem as a good approach. Such a sys­tem is already being pilot­ed else­where, like at Arch­es Nation­al Park, and seems to work well. NPI is ful­ly sup­port­ive of this pilot and thanks the Park Ser­vice for tak­ing thought­ful action to address over­crowd­ing and improve the vis­i­tor experience.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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