Note: All inquiries regarding reservation availability should be directed to Mount Rainier National Park. This website has no affiliation with the National Park Service. We cannot help to arrange reservations.
For the most up-to-date info, please visit the National Park Service resources:
Official wilderness camping and hiking info
Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips in Mount Rainier National Park. Visit the National Park’s website for the most up-to-date rules and regulations or call the Wilderness Information Center at 360-569-6650.
Reservations for The Wonderland Trail
In brief, the park issues about 70% of the available campsites through a reservation system, and the rest on a first-come, first-served basis. They take reservations for the summer and fall beginning March 15th. Requests received by March 31 will be given higher priority. There is a reservation fee of $20, and you will want get your request in early, especially if you plan to hike with a group.
If you’re just hiking a small section of the trail, the National Park reports that Friday and Saturday nights see the largest numbers of campers and advises planning your trip between Sunday and Thursday if possible.
There are 18 trail-side camps on the Wonderland Trail
There are eighteen trail-side camps with water sources and pit toilets on the Wonderland Trail. When you apply for your permit, you need to provide your preferred itinerary, and the NPS will do what they can to accommodate. I recommend this laminated map for planning your itinerary.
Rules on making changes
You must adhere to your permit itinerary unless you discuss changes with a ranger and are explicitly given permission to do so. On the trail, most rangers are willing to radio the Wilderness Information Center to see if you can change your reservation.
Note that it is a regular occurrence to have your permit checked by law enforcement rangers on the trail, and you can be issued citations if you’re camping where you don’t have a permit to do so.
Permits protect the fragile landscape from overuse and limit trail traffic
Besides protecting meadows from tents and getting trampled, limiting the number of wilderness permits available makes it nicer for the hikers on the trail. Permits regulate the flow of hikers through the trail system, and even on a busy day, you won’t feel like you’re hiking at a busy National Park (once you’re five or six miles from the nearest trail-head). Without permits, the wilderness would surely become unbearably crowded during the peak hiking season.
In addition to the reservation cost, you will also have to pay a $15 entrance fee to drive into the park unless you have an annual national parks pass. The park service is proposing increasing this to $25 later this year (2015).
Can’t get a permit? Consider day-hiking and shorter trips instead.
You can still see much of the Wonderland Trail by day-hiking and doing one or two-day trips. Read this article for more info