More than 2 million people travel to Washington State to experience the world-class beauty of Mount Rainier National Park. Did you know a significant percentage of that visitation occurs during 11 weeks of summer? If you’re seeking solitude and a path less traveled here are tips on how to navigate the worst of congestion this season, stressfree.
1. Plan on arriving early in the morning or late in the day to avoid peak delays at entry points to the park. You’ll also have an easier time finding a parking spot at viewpoints, trailheads, and visitor centers. Parking lots tend to fill up at Paradise by 11:00 AM. The busiest time at the entrance stations is typically from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
2. Have a “back-up” plan. If you arrive at Paradise and find the parking lot full have an alternate destination in mind to explore. Consider areas like Longmire, Sunrise, Ohanapecosh, or Mowich. Additionally, areas outside of the national park in gateway communities are home to Crystal Mountain Resort, Tahoma Trails, and USFS lands which offer nearby alternatives to explore with shorter lines, smaller crowds, and on a clear day incredible views of Mount Rainier.
3. To cut down on your time at the entrance gate use an annual park pass, buy a pass online and print the pass before you visit, or have exact change when entering the park.
4. Check the park’s Twitter account for updates on weekend and holiday wait times to help with trip planning. (You do not need a Twitter account to view the public information.)
5. At the Nisqually Entrance, please be mindful not to block driveways of neighboring residences and businesses along SR706 in Ashford. Visitors who typically enter via the park’s southwestern entrance near Ashford may also consider the southeastern entrance near Packwood as a shorter-wait alternative on busy weekends during July and August.
6. As wait times increase to enter the park on summer weekends, break up your trip by visiting the public restroom in Elbe on SR706 at the WSDOT-managed Safety Rest Area. Elbe also has local restaurants, shops, the historic little white church, and the Mt. Rainier Railroad which operates steam train excursions each weekend.
7. Visitors with children may enjoy letting them stretch their legs at the Ashford County Park located at 29801 SR706 in Ashford. The 80-acre park has walking trails, a playground, plenty of parking, and public restrooms. The Ex-Nihilo Sculpture Park located at 22410 Washington 706, Ashford, WA 98304 is a local attraction featuring art made from recycled iron.