Mount Rainier National Park begins new timed entry permit program


Another year, another new permitting system for a busy Pacific Northwest natural attraction.

On Friday, Mount Rainier National Park began its new timed-entry permit system, a pilot program that park officials hope will reduce congestion in the park.

The new system, which will be in effect from May 24 to Sept. 2, will require visitors to secure permits when visiting the popular Paradise or Sunrise corridors between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Anyone visiting the park before or after those times will not need to secure a permit, the National Park Service said.

Visitors will not need permits for Sunrise until July 4 this year, the day the mountain highway is expected to reopen for the season.

Permits are issued per vehicle and are sold for $2 online at

Each permit is good for a two-hour window, meaning anyone with a 9 a.m. reservation can enter the park between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., park officials said. Once in, visitors can stay as long as they like.

Those with reservations for campgrounds or lodging at Paradise or Sunrise will not need to secure a timed entry permit, but will need to wait until 1 p.m. on the first day of their reservation to enter those corridors. Those with wilderness or special use permits can use those permits for entry.

The National Park Service said the new permits are an effort to curb congestion in the busiest parts of the Washington peak, by encouraging people to visit other places or at different times.

“The system is not expected to reduce overall visitation, but rather spread it out throughout the day and season to reduce crowding,” the agency said in a news release.

Park officials pointed to a growing number of annual visitors, which swelled from 1.1 million in 2013 to 1.6 million in 2022, though that one figure doesn’t tell the whole story.

Annual park visits at Mount Rainier peaked back in 1970, when 1,925,100 people visited, according to National Park Service data. The second busiest year was 1962, which saw 1,905,300 visitors. Those numbers dipped over the ensuing decades, falling to just over 1 million people in 2007, before steadily rising. In 2021, the park surpassed 1.6 million annual visitors for the first time since 1978.

Monthly data from 2023 offers a deeper look at visitation. Most of the visitors last year showed up in the heat of summer, according to the data, with July and August combining to account for just over half of the annual visitor count. Last year, the park saw 444,968 visitors in July and 400,966 visitors in August.

The park was also busy last June, when it saw 219,286 people, as well as September, when 221,834 people showed up. Since the new permits this year will be in effect for June but not September, the pilot program could give park officials the chance to compare the two busy months and see how traffic is actually impacted.

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