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Contact: Tracy Swartout, 360-569-6502
Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Randy King reports that the park is no longer accepting reservation requests for hiking the Wonderland Trail (either the full circuit or large portions) for the summer 2015 hiking season due to overwhelming and unprecedented demand.
The park's current reservation procedure provides that reservations received between March 15 and April 1 each year are processed in random order starting on April 1. All reservations received on or after April 1 are processed the order they are received, after the first batch is handled. A small number of Park Rangers are tasked with processing all reservation requests.
Prior to 2013, the number of wilderness reservation requests received at Mount Rainier during the first two weeks of the reservation window averaged around 800. In 2013, the number jumped to 1,400- perhaps partially due to increased press related to hiking the Wonderland Trail. In 2014, the park received 2,000 reservation requests during that same period. This year, the park received approximately 2,600 reservation requests as of March 31, the majority of which are for hiking the Wonderland Trail.
The number of requests received in 2015 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, in order to minimize the processing of reservation requests that will then be denied- and to minimize would-be applicant's frustrations- the park is no longer accepting reservation requests for Wonderland reservations in 2015. Visitors may still seek walk-up reservations throughout the summer.
The park holds approximately 30 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.