Mount Rainier National Park

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Mount Rainier National Park

 

Description

Established in 1899. 235,625 acres (97% is designated Wilderness). Includes Mount Rainier (14,410'), an active volcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice. The park contains outstanding examples of old growth forests and subalpine meadows.  Designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1997 as a showcase for the "NPS Rustic" style architecture of the 1920s and 1930s.  Whether hiking on its flanks, climbing its summit, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on its slopes, camping along its glacier-fed rivers, photographing wildflower displays in subalpine meadows, or just admiring the view, nearly two million people come to enjoy the grandeur and beauty of Mount Rainier each year.

 

 

Park Information

Hours/Sesons:  Mount Rainier National Park is open all year, but access is limited in winter.  Facilities at Longmire are open daily year-round. Facilities at Paradise and Ohanapecosh are open daily from late-May to mid-October. Facilities at Sunrise are open July to early-October.  In winter, access is by the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest corner of the park only. The Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise is open weekends and holidays in winter.  Most visitors come on sunny summer weekends and holidays. Try to schedule your visit mid-week in summer, if possible, since parking is limited in many areas of the park.

Directions:  Year-round access to the park is via SR 706 to the Nisqually Entrance in the SW corner of the park. Limited winter access is available via Hwy. 123 in the SE corner of the park. The Carbon River/Mowich Lake area (NW corner) is accessed via SR 165 through Wilkeson. Summer access is available via Hwy. 410 on the N and E sides of the park.

Fees:  
Individual - $5 - 7 Days
Vehicle - $15 - 7 Days
Climbing Annual Pass - $30 Annual

Weather:  Weather patterns at Mount Rainier are strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean, elevation, and latitude. The climate is generally cool and rainy, with summer highs in the 60s and 70s. While July and August are the sunniest months of the year, rain is possible any day, and very likely in spring, fall, and winter.

    

Mount Rainier National Park was established over 100 years ago and encompasses 235,625 acres, ranging in elevation from 1,610' to 14,410' above sea level. The "mountain" is actually an active volcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice, surrounded by old growth forest and stunning wildflower meadows. The park is also rich in cultural resources and is designated a National Historic Landmark District as an outstanding example of early park planning and NPS rustic architecture.  Whether you are looking for scenic drives or challenging hikes, or to enjoy historic architecture or mountain climbing, Mount Rainier has something for you.

 

Backpacking

Wilderness Camping Permits and Use Limits

Climbers pay a $15 per person, per climb, Mountaineering Cost Recovery fee upon arrival in the park, in order to obtain their Climbing Permit, which also serves as their Wilderness Camping Permit. An annual climbing pass is available for $25. Backpackers, and anyone else who camps outside of auto campgrounds, must obtain a free Wilderness Camping Permit before camping. Permits are required year-round and are issued in person only after you arrive in the park. The permits may be obtained at the Wilderness Information Centers at Longmire and White River, at the Paradise Ranger Station, and at the Wilkeson Ranger Station (beginning in late May).

Use Limits: Use limits exist and are enforced throughout virtually all of the Mount Rainier wilderness (97% of the park) from May 1 through September 30 only.

Trailside Camping: Camping along trails is confined to designated trailside campgrounds only. A trailside campground has from one to eight improved sites, each of which will accommodate one "individual" party of 1-5 people. Many of the trailside campgrounds also have a group site for "group" parties of 6-12 people. All campgrounds have a primitive toilet and a nearby untreated water supply.

Crosscountry Camping: Backpackers may choose to venture into rough trailless areas, far away from maintained trails, and choose their own location to camp, using "leave no trace" camping ethics and camping where there are no improved campsites out of sight and sound of other parties. These vast areas are segmented into zones for management purposes, and each zone has a capacity for numbers of allowable parties per night camped in that zone. Party size may not exceed 5. Choose crosscountry camping only if you are adept with map and compass and in excellent physical condition for enduring the additional challenge of crosscountry travel. There are both lower forest and subalpine crosscountry zones.

Alpine Camping: Mountain climbers generally choose to camp in these tree-less, snow- and ice-covered areas on the slopes of Mount Rainier itself. Like crosscountry areas, the alpine area is also segmented into zones, most of which have capacities on the number of parties camped per night. Party size may not exceed 12 if camping on snow. If camping on bare ground, party size may not exceed 5. Within the alpine zones, there are two popular high camps on the two most popular climbing routes (Muir Corridor and Emmons Glacier). Each camp and the adjoining alpine zones have capacities based on allowable people per night. Never camp on exposed vegetation or the partially vegetated "islands" of rare alpine plants as these plants struggle to survive here. In particular, camping is illegal in the Muir "fellfields" on either side of the Muir Snowfield, which leads to Camp Muir.

Reserving Campsites

An in-park Wilderness Reservation System is available for climbers and backpackers planning trips during the May 1 to September 30 period. A reservations office is staffed and maintained at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center during the summer months. Beginning April 3, reservations  can be made by phone (360) 569-HIKE, Fax (360) 569-3131, or mail: Wilderness Reservations Office, Tahoma Woods Star Route, Ashford, WA 98304. There is a $20 reservation fee for advance reservations. Reservations can be made up to two months in advance of the day you start your trip  (i.e., a reservation for July 4 may be made no earlier than May 4) and are for trips between May 1 and September 30 only.

Up to 60% of all trailside campsites, crosscountry zones, and alpine zones throughout the park will be reservable no earlier than two months in advance of the first day of one's climb or backpacking trip. The remaining sites are available to first-come, first-served users. Reservations are available during the use limit season of May 1 through September 30 only, and are not available for other times of the year. The $20 fee per party per trip covers the cost of operating the reservation system. One itinerary change or readjustment before and during one's trip is permitted without additional charge. The $20 fee is non-refundable.

Reservations are optional. They are often not needed, especially early and late in the summer and on some weekdays during mid summer, or if you keep your options very flexible upon arrival in the park. Poor weather also radically affects demand. However, climbers and backpackers are generally advised to make reservations for weekend climbs and backpacking trips, including Friday nights. Out-of-state visitors may wish to make reservations to avoid interruptions in their trip plans. Those going on extended backpacking trips are also advised to make reservations.

Reservations may be requested by phone (voice mail messages may be left), fax, or letter no earlier than April 1 for trips starting June 1. If, for example, your hike or climb doesn't begin until July 15th, don't request a reservation before May 15th. Reservations may be requested as late as 24 hours before a trip is to begin. Reservations are not confirmed until your payment has been received (Visa or Mastercard by phone, mailed check, or in-person payment). Depending on volume of phone calls, staff will attempt to help you with trip planning if needed.

The Longmire Wilderness Information Center will be open daily for in-person hiking and backpacking information, wilderness permits, and wilderness reservations beginning May 22.

To make reservations:
360-569-HIKE (4453)
FAX: 360-569-3131

Day Hiking

There are no limits on party size, numbers of people per party, or what trail you may choose for your hike, and there is no charge (beyond the park entrance fee) for day hiking throughout the park. Day hikers are encouraged to stay on designated trails throughout the park, and are required to do so in the heavily used Paradise, Sunrise, and Tipsoo Lake meadows. Please choose a spot for a lunch stop carefully. Avoid fragile flower fields and stream banks.

Day hikers are advised to keep hiking plans flexible because some trailhead parking lots may be full, and overflow parking is not permitted, in order to avoid impeding traffic and to provide a less crowded, higher quality experience for hikers. Alternative trailheads may have space available.

 

Biking

Bicycles are allowed on the roads in the park and cyclists will find both challenging and scenic cycling opportunities. Bicycles are not permitted on any of the foot trails and there are no designated bike trails. Bicycling equipment in or near the park is very limited. Cyclists are advised to be equipped to make needed repairs on their own. Helmets are essential.

September and early October are generally excellent times for cyclists to visit Mount Rainier as there are fewer vehicles on the roads. This enhances the opportunity to enjoy the fall colors, although many facilities and services are reduced or discontinued in scope after Labor Day.

Ride safely and enjoy a pleasant and safe ride in Mount Rainier National Park!

Road and Touring Cyclists:

Road and touring cyclists will find park roads quite challenging as they are steep, narrow, winding and have unpaved shoulders. There are several significant elevation gains and losses. The road from the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest corner of the park to Paradise is 19 miles one way with a gain in elevation of 3,400 feet. Travel from the northeast park boundary to Sunrise is 20 miles with an elevation gain of 3,650 feet. Use exceptional care on the descents as excess speed can make the winding roads quite dangerous. The Redmond Cycling Club sponsors RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier One Day), an annual bicycle ride in July in which 750 cyclists test themselves on the 154 mile course with 10,000 feet of total elevation gain.

Mountain Bike Enthusiasts:

Mountain bikers have three areas to choose from in the park:

The Westside Road is just inside the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest corner of the park. The entire length is unpaved and provides an exceptionally scenic challenge. The first three miles of the road are open to all vehicles. There is a small parking area at the end of this three mile section and many mountain bikers choose to leave their cars at this point. The ten mile stretch to Klapatche Point is restricted to cyclists and hikers. There are two challenging climbs and the views offered are spectacular.

The Carbon River Road is in the northwest corner of the park. It provides an opportunity to ride through a rain forest. Use caution as there is vehicle traffic on the road.

A third option for mountain bikers is the road behind the old campground in Longmire. Vehicle parking and access to this road are at the Community Building in Longmire. This road accesses Forest Service Road 52 (Skate Creek or Kernahan Road) and makes a loop back to the park via Ashford.

 

Camping

Cougar Rock Campground
Location:
SW corner of the park, 2.3 miles north of Longmire. 
Elevation: 3,180 feet
Campsites: 200 individual & 5 group sites (10 to 24 campers per group site)
Season: Late May to mid-October
Availability: Late June - Labor Day: Reservations only. Make reservations online or call 1-800-365-CAMP. Reservations may be available upon arrival. Remainder of the season: First-come, first-served only. Register at campground.
Facilities: Water, flush-type toilets, trailer dump station, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans, amphitheater, hiking trails. Some accessible sites. No RV hookups. No showers.
Fees: Late June - Labor Day (reservations only): $14; Remainder of the season: $12.

Ipsut Creek Campground
Location:
NW corner of the park 
Elevation: 2300 feet
Campsites: 28 individual campsites
Season: Open year round depending on snow conditions.
Availability: Open.
Facilities: Tables and vault toilets. No potable water. No RV hookups. Road is rough and trailers may have difficulty.
Fees:  $6.

Mowich Lake Campground
Location:
NW corner of the park at the end of SR 165 (this 17 mile road is unpaved after the first few miles beyond its junction with the road leading to Carbon River and the Ipsut Creek campground)
Elevation: 4950 feet
Campsites: 30 undesignated, walk-in only sites (approximately 50 yard walk)
Season: July - mid-October
Availability:  Road is open.
Facilities: Chemical vault toilets, tables, refuse bin, hiking trails. No RV hookups. No potable water. NO FIRES.
Fees:  None.

Ohanapecosh Campground
Location:
SE corner of the park, 11 miles north of Packwood off SR 123 
Elevation: 1914 feet
Campsites: 205 individual sites
Season: Late May to mid-October
Availability: Late June - Labor Day: Reservations only. Make reservations online or call 1-800-365-CAMP. Reservations may be available upon arrival. Remainder of the season: First-come, first-served only. Register at campground.
Facilities: Water, flush-type toilets, trailer dump station, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans, visitor center, amphitheater, hiking trails. Accessible sites under construction. No RV hookups. No showers.
Fees: Late June - Labor Day (reservations only): $14; Remainder of the season: $12.

Sunshine Point Campground
Location: SW corner of the park, 2.5 miles inside the Nisqually Entrance. 
Elevation: 2000 feet
Campsites: 18 individual sites, no group sites.
ADA Handicapped Accessible Sites: Sites 1 and 3.
Season: Open year-round.
Availability: No reservations. Register at the campground.
Facilities: Water, chemical vault toilets, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans provided. No RV hookups.
Fees: $10 per site.

White River Campground
Location:
NE corner of the park, five miles west of White River Entrance off SR 410.
Elevation: 4400 feet
Campsites: 112 individual sites
Season: Late June to September
Availability: No reservations. Register at campground
Facilities: Water, flush-type toilets, trailer dump station, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans, hiking trails. No RV hookups.
Fees: $10 per site.

Climbing

Mount Rainier, the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, offers an exciting challenge to the mountaineer. This 14,410 foot active volcano is successfully climbed each year by thousands of people.

Reaching the summit requires a vertical elevation gain of more than 9,000 feet over a distance of eight or more miles. Climbers must be in good physical condition and well prepared. Proper physical conditioning can offset the effects of fatigue that lead to mistakes and injuries.

Weather, snow, and route conditions can change rapidly and can make the difference between a pleasant and rewarding experience or tragedy. Obtain a current weather forecast before beginning a climb. Turn back if weather conditions deteriorate. Severe winter-like storms on the mountain are not uncommon during the summer. Contact a climbing ranger for updated information on weather, route conditions, crevasses, rockfall, and avalanches by calling 360-569-2211, extension 2314#.

 

Other Activities

Other activities visitors can enjoy at Mount Rainier are:

  • Cross-Country Skiing

  • Snow shoeing

  • Snowboarding

  • Snowmobiling

  • Winter Camping

  • Snowplay

 

 

 

For Additional Information Contact:

Mount Rainier National Park
Tahoma Woods, Star Route
Ashford, WA 98304-9751
(360) 569-2211 x. 3314

 

For more information visit the National Park Service website