Skip to main content

Planning on hiking Mount Rainier this summer? NPS now requires reservations

Mount Rainier, a water view, and a pink warm sky view.
Intricate Explorer / Unsplash

Thinking of heading to Mount Rainier for stunning wildflower displays and awe-inspiring cascades? You’ll have to plan ahead because this summer, park reservations are required from May 24th through September 2nd.

To avoid the headache of a sold-out park, check out the reservation details below to make sure you’re in the clear. And if you want to avoid the reservation system altogether, we have a few tips for that at the end.

Understanding Mount Rainier’s new timed entry system

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia

Over 2.5 million people visited Mount Rainier’s snow-capped peak in 2023, and the NPS anticipates even more visitors this year. The park hopes that the pilot reservation system will reduce wait times, driving delays, and congested trails during its busiest months.

Mount Rainier’s pilot timed entry system began May 24th at the Stevens Canyon and Nisqually entrances, two popular access points for the park. The Sunrise Corridor entrance will also require reservations from July 4th to September 2nd.

You’ll need to make a reservation on recreation.gov, where you’re prompted to select a date and a two-hour entry window ranging from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. An account is required, and a $2 reservation fee is applied upon booking.

Those having issues with the online system can call 877-444-6777 to make a direct reservation.

Only one vehicle or motorcycle is allowed per reservation per day. Unless you have a travel membership like the America the Beautiful Pass, you’ll also need to pay a park entrance fee at the gate, which will cost $30 and is good for 7 days.

Advanced reservation slots are released 90 days ahead, but another batch is released the night before at 7:00 pm if you weren’t able to get a ticket the first time around.

When you arrive, you can bring a digital or printed copy of your receipt to be scanned alongside your photo ID. Consider taking a screenshot of your ticket before hitting the road to avoid signal issues at the entrance.

Tips for visiting without reservations

A man browsing his laptop sitting in a sunny living room
LinkedIn Sales Solutions / Unsplash

It may be stressful to add more to your to-do list when all you want to be doing is hiking Mount Rainier and letting your worries slip away. But there’s always a silver lining, and if you’re flexible, you may be able to pass through without a reservation.

Arriving earlier or later is going to be the simplest way to get in without a reservation. You’re exempt from the new requirements if you arrive before 7:00 am or after 3:00 pm. Just make sure not to arrive at 6:55 in the morning – you can expect a line and may not make it in time, especially on peak dates.

If you’re staying in the park at an on-site lodge, campground, or with your first-come-first-serve backpacking permit in hand, no reservation is needed. And as I’ve explored with this Yosemite reservation hack, staying at a nearby hotel or lodge that offers tours is a great way to circumvent pesky entry requirements.

For choosing a great tour, reputable outfitters include Tours Northwest and Evergreen Escapes, both departing from Seattle and offering a full day of adventure while taking all the park planning off your hands.

If you’re not dead set on seeing Cougar Rock, Box Canyon, Snow Lake, and other top spots, you may be better off planning your trip around less crowded areas of the park. The Carbon River Entrance and White River Entrance both offer great experiences without the hassle, as they won’t require reservations in 2024.

For the truly adventurous visitor, you can skirt a reservation if you enter on foot or by bike. But you’ll still need a permit or reservation if you plan on spending the night.

As outdoor tourism continues to grow, we may see a rise in reservation systems for other national parks in Washington. Luckily, the fees are low for now, and the reservation site is pretty easy to navigate.

We can also do our part to keep parks less congested. By embracing responsible travel, planning ahead, and canceling when necessary, we give other visitors a fair chance of entry.

And the better park-goers respect the evolving park rules, the smoother these new reservation systems will go.

Editors' Recommendations

Rachel Dennis
Artist & writer with a flair for the outdoors, sustainability & travel. Off-duty chef, bookworm, and conversation lover.
This van life camper van sleeps 8, goes everywhere, and you can rent it for less than a hotel would cost
Explore the best of the U.S. in these custom-built, four-wheel-drive, go-anywhere rigs
Moterra Campervan rental parked in a Utah National Park campsite.

The quintessential image of modern van life is one of unbridled freedom, of taking to the open road, of living on your terms and going whichever the wind takes you. While that can be pretty accurate, actually living the van life can also be expensive. There’s buying the van, the time and investment required for building it out, and, of course, the looming cost of repairs, which can seriously add up. But what if you could have all the fun of van living without the expense and hassle of actually owning a campervan? That’s where comes in.

Here’s the low-down on Moterra Campervans
Moterra Campervans is a rental agency offering short-term campervan rentals in the United States. These aren’t your old-school Westfalias (no disrespect intended) but high-end, late-model, four-wheel-drive, van life-worthy rigs ready to take you just about anywhere. Picture your next vacation: Trading in your typical hotel room and boring rental sedan for a go-anywhere van life rig purpose-built for exploration.

Read more
Visitors to Death Valley have rare opportunity to go kayaking in an ancient lake (for a limited time)
Kayak in this rare lake in Death Valley before it dries up
A kayak on the Badwater Basin.

If the outdoors, an ancient lake, and stunning views are all things that make your Spidey senses tingle, you need to head to Death Valley as soon as possible. The National Park Service says there is a small window when you could kayak in a lake in Badwater Basin, and it's happening right now. Pack your gear and go on an adventure at Death Valley National Park.

The ancient lake is having a moment
The driest spot in the U.S. saw enough rain to turn the lowest elevation point in North America (which hits 282 feet below sea level) into a glorious lake where kayaks roam free. Though it is only temporary, Badwater Basin, located at the bottom of Death Valley National Park, a foot of water took over the normally dry salt flat to form Lake Manly.
Help from a hurricane
The unexpected additional inches of rainfall boosted Badwater Basin due to Hurricane Hilary in August 2023. Typically, Death Valley National Park gets two inches of rain a year, but because of the hurricane, the valley floor caught 4.9 inches in six months, with a bonus of 1.5 inches in early February.

Read more
We really wish these compact, Korea-exclusive RVs and campervans were available stateside
Lightweight, compact, and tidy, these three campers are everything we'd want in a road-ready rig
Hyundai Staria Lounge Camper parked in a field.

Here in the U.S., RV'ing feels like an exclusively American pastime. But Europeans, Asians, and Australians have enjoyed caravanning and campervanning since, well, almost as long as caravans and campers have existed. Much of the world, however, eschews the "bigger is better" design ethos of most luxurious 'Merican-made motorhomes. They instead like to keep things lightweight, compact, and tidy, traveling with everything they need and nothing they don't. Korea, in particular, knows what's up when it comes to minimalist RVs and campervans. Case in point: These three camper models we really wish were available stateside.

Three Korean-built campers we really wish they'd sell stateside
Kia's Bongo is a cab-over pickup that's been a ubiquitous workhorse truck in South Korea for more than 20 years. It serves as the perfect base for this compact custom camper build. At roughly 21 feet long, it would classify as a Class B camper here in the U.S., with exactly enough living space to fit a wet bath, sleeping quarters, and a compact kitchen setup. It's remarkably similar to many mid-size campers we've seen stateside. But we appreciate a few thoughtful design touches that help it stand out, including a heated shoe storage area, an insect-repellent sliding screen "door," and a toilet that swivels to provide a little extra legroom in the very tight bathroom. There's also a large cabinet that opens to the outside for quick indoor/outdoor access to gear and small kitchen appliances.

Read more