As state and county officials begin to ease the “stay at home” rules, people are understandably anxious to get out and stretch their legs. In this part of the Puget Sound region, that often means heading for the higher highlights provided by Mount Rainier.
“Throughout history, Americans have looked to their public lands for solace and recreation during times of crisis,” Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins said. His comments were pointed primarily to popular mountain venues on Rainier’s southern flank, like Longmire and Paradise.
But what about those areas of the park accessed through Enumclaw, via state Route 410? There’s some good news on this side as well.
Jenkins reported that expanded access is now available on the park’s east side – near the White River and Ohanapecosh campgrounds – for hiking and picnicking. Overnight use of campgrounds will begin at a later date and amenities like visitor centers and developed campgrounds will remain closed until park staff determine it is safe to reopen them.
As part of a National Park Service press release, it was noted that state routes 410 and 123 (Chinook and Cayuse passes) remain open, along with all trailheads accessed by those highways.
The White River Road is open as far as the White River Campground, but the campground is available only for trailhead access and day use.
While park trails are open, visitors are advised to check the park’s website for current conditions, as high elevation trails are still snow-covered.
For the hearty adventurers, overnight, backcountry (non-campground) camping is available. A permit is required and must be obtained online, at least 48 hours in advance. To plan a backcountry trip or to get a backcountry permit online, visit: https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-camping-and-hiking.htm.
Sunrise, a popular destination accessed from SR 410, does not typically open until July. That’s expected to be the case again this year.
Heading toward the mountain through Buckley leads visitors to the Carbon River entrance, which was damaged by winter storms. Guests can park along the road outside the entrance and walk in.
Park visitors can use Highway 123 to access the Grove of the Patriarchs trailhead and restrooms.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN
Those looking to make a trip to the “other side” can use the park’s southwestern (Nisqually) entrance near Ashford and travel to both Longmire and Paradise.
All trailheads along the entrance road that are normally accessible this time of year are open. Also open is the Cougar Rock Picnic Area.
The National Park Inn’s store at Longmire is open for gifts and grab-and-go food service only (no lodging or dining access).
IT’S NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL ON RAINIER
The National Park Service is working to gradually increase access and services across all its units, including Mount Rainier National Park. Staff is using a phased approach that aligns with guidance from the national, state and local authorities. Due to employee housing limitations and revenue reductions, the park is reportedly working with about half of its regular summer workforce.
As park facilities reopen, staff is asking visitors to follow now-standard measures: check the park’s website (nps.gov/mora) for updates on the status of the place you plan to visit; if possible, consider visiting on a weekday; prepare for facilities to be closed, pack a lunch, and take essentials like hand sanitizer and face masks. Park staff encourages everyone to maintain physical distancing and limit groups to members of an immediate household.