Mount Rainier National Park receives record number of Wilderness Reservation Requests: halts advance reservations for full-circuit Wonderland trips

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Date: April 5, 2017
Contact: Kelsea Holbrook, 360-569-6510

On March 31, 2017, Mount Rainier National Park closed its initial two weeks of open reservation requests for wilderness camping and climbing permits, including overnight trips on the Wonderland Trail. In just two weeks, nearly 5,900 requests were received online, with more than forty-four percent representing requests to hike the entire length of the 93-mile long Wonderland Trail. This response more than doubles the number of requests received in 2015, the last year for which advance reservations were available. A significant storm damaged the reservation processing system last year, requiring all walk-up permits in 2016.

Prior to 2013, the number of wilderness reservation requests received at Mount Rainier during the first two weeks of open reservation requests averaged around 800. In 2013, that number jumped to 1,400; in 2014, it jumped again to 2,000. Finally in 2015, the park received over 2,700 reservation requests by March 31. The number of requests received in 2017 is unprecedented for the park and represents more than double the number received during this period for any prior year. Superintendent Randy King shared that, “Interest in backcountry camping within National Parks continues to grow nationwide. As we move into our second century of service, we are honored to provide continued opportunities for people to connect with nature and share meaningful park experiences at Mount Rainier National Park.”
As in prior years, the number of requests received in 2017 within the first two weeks exceeds space that can be reserved at backcountry camps along the trail this summer. Established carrying capacity for wilderness camping in the park dictates the number of reservations that will be accommodated, and this number does not change annually. Therefore, far less than half of the 5,900 advance reservation requests will be granted. In addition, the park can typically accommodate around 450 full-circuit Wonderland Trail permits each year, but over 2,500 have now been requested. Therefore, in order to minimize processing of reservation requests that will then be denied- the park will no longer accept advance reservation requests for complete Wonderland Trail circuits in 2017. Applicants will be notified of their reservation request status by email over the next few weeks. Visitors may also still seek walk-up reservations throughout the summer.
The park holds approximately thirty percent of available backcountry space for first-come, first-served (walk-up) permits. Hikers may attempt to get a first-come, first-served permit (based on availability) on the start day of the hike (or up to one day in advance of the start date). No walk-up reservations are accepted prior to one day in advance of the start of the proposed hike. The best locations to obtain a walk-up permit are the ranger stations at Longmire, White River, and Carbon River.
Another option for experiencing the Wonderland Trail is to hike it in smaller segments, which will improve chances of obtaining a permit both via reservation and in person. Hikers can also improve their chances by being flexible with trip dates and destinations.
All camping reservation requests received from March 15 through March 31 are currently being processed in random order. Requests received on or after April 1 will be processed in the order received, after the initial batch of requests. All applicants will receive confirmation of their submission within one business day and will be updated via email regarding status and payment once approved.
Teams of park staff and volunteers are dedicated each year to assist backcountry campers with trip planning, repair trail bridges and trail tread, improve campsite safety and resource protection, and provide emergency response. Each of these individuals makes it possible for the park to protect trail infrastructure and provide for safe visitor experiences.
This year’s process is the first step in a phased solution to upgrading the park’s older reservation system. “The park thanks the University of Washington iSchool, as well as donors to Washington’s National Park Fund for their continued support of the new reservation system development. The doubling of requests in 2017 is a testament to an immediately improved process for our visitors this year,” stated Deputy Superintendent Tracy Swartout. The park continues to work on an advanced online reservation system wherein users can see real-time site availability while requesting their reservation.

Further details and updates will be posted on:

Last updated: April 5, 2017

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