Unprecedented requests prompt Mount Rainier to suspend Wonderland Trail permits

Those hoping to score a Wonderland Trail permit are out of luck, Mount Rainier National Park announced Friday.

An unprecedented number of permit requests submitted during the regular application period of March 15-31 has led to the suspension of the application process. Typically, requests received after April 1 would be scheduled on a first come, first served basis.

Before 2013, the park averaged 800 wilderness reservation requests during the two-week window. In 2014, the number jumped to 2,000. This year, the park received about 2,600 requests.

A small number of rangers process the requests, and a statement from the park said the deluge of requests overwhelmed the staff.

Park officials said increased media coverage of the trail might be part of the reason for the spike in interest.

The 93-mile Wonderland Trail makes a challenging up-and-down loop around Mount Rainier. The permit suspension includes both thru-hiking and long trips on the trail.

Walk-up reservations, which can be secured not earlier than a day before departure, still will be available. The park holds about 30 percent of available backcountry space for walk-up permits and distributes them on a first come, first served basis.

The permits can be obtained at the Longmire, White River and Carbon River ranger stations.

The park recommends hiking the Wonderland Trail in short sections to improve the chances of securing a permit.

A statement from the park reads:

“The number of requests received in 2015 within the first two weeks exceeds space that can be reserved at backcounty camps along the trail this summer.

“Established carrying capacity for wilderness camping in the park dictates the number of reservations that will be accommodated, and this number does not change annually.

Therefore, in order to minimize processing of reservation requests that will then be denied — and to minimize would-be applicants’ frustrations — the park is no longer accepting reservation requests for Wonderland reservations in 2015.”