It’s a 93-mile trail that’s nearly as challenging as getting permission to walk it. And this year it will cost you $20 just to try for a permit.
The Wonderland Trail, an undulating loop around Mount Rainier, is a bucket list experience for many hikers, and the rush to get permits starts Thursday.
Mount Rainier National Park begins accepting online reservation requests for all wilderness camping and climbing permits at 9 a.m. All requests received March 15-31 will be processed in random order. Those received after March 31 will be reviewed in the order received, but in recent years all reservation were taken by April 1.
Starting this year, the park will charge a nonrefundable $20 application fee for each reservation request. There is no additional fee if permits are approved. In the past, there was no fee unless you scored a reservation.
Revenue generated by the fee will be used for the operation of the park’s three Wilderness Information Centers and further development of the park’s reservation system. The park says the online reservation system will allow users to see real-time site availability while requesting reservations.
Applicants must pay the registration fee at pay.gov an obtain a confirmation code before requesting their reservation. Camping above 10,000 feet requires an annual climbing permit.
For those who don’t get permits or miss the application window, all is not lost. The park holds about 30 percent of backcountry space for first-come, first-served permits. These permits can be obtained no more than one day in advance of the trip at the Longmire, White River or Carbon River ranger stations.