Mount Rainier National Park
For those wishing to escape the concrete and car exhaust of daily life, backpacking in the park can be a memorable adventure—even if it's only for one night. Mount Rainier National Park has six auto campgrounds providing almost 600 sites. Each one operates a little differently, so it would be wise to call the Campground Reservation line for updated fee and reservation information.
May and June can sometimes be hazardous for hikers, who should be prepared to encounter weak snow bridges over streams, fallen trees on trails, washed-out bridges, and snow-covered trails that may be difficult to follow.
By July, the snow usually melts and there are a few prime months for warm-weather wilderness camping. Weekends are predictably popular for overnighters, and permits are required by the park. By early October, the snow usually begins again and backpackers should be prepared for cold-weather trips.
Trailside Camping: Camping along trails is allowed, but confined to designated trailside campgrounds only. A trailside campground has from one to eight improved sites, each of which will accommodate one "individual" party of one to five people. Many of the campgrounds also have a group site, for 6-12 people. All campgrounds have a primitive toilet and a nearby untreated water supply.
Cross-Country Camping: Experienced map-readers and compass-users may choose to venture into trailless areas of the park and choose their own location to camp. Park rangers have divided the sub-alpine areas into zones, each with its own camper capacity. Permits are required to keep track of the number of hikers and their general location.
Alpine Camping: Cross-country campers also venture into higher altitude alpine zones, camping on the treeless, snow-covered slopes of Mt. Rainier. These alpine areas are also divided into camping zones, with the two most popular routes being Muir Corridor and Emmons Glacier. Permits are again required for alpine cross-country campers, and special regulations apply for campers in these fragile areas. Check with a ranger for updated information before heading out.
Cougar Rock Campground is located in the southwest corner of the park, 2.3 miles north of Longmire, at an elevation of 3,180 feet. There are 200 individual sites and five group sites (10 to 24 campers per group site). The campground has running water, flush-type toilets, a trailer dump station, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans, an amphitheater, and access to hiking trails. No RV hookups or showers.
Season: Late May to mid-October
Availability: Reservations only July 1 to Labor Day. (Reservations may be available upon arrival.) For the remainder of the season campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Register at campground.
Ipsut Creek Campground is located in the northwest corner of the park at an elevation of 2,300 feet. There are 28 individual campsites with tables. Vault toilets are maintained, but there is no potable water or RV hookups.
Season: Open year-round depending on snow conditions.
Availability: Currently closed due to road washout; managed as a backcountry camp.
Mowich Lake Campground is located in the northwest corner of the park at the end of SR 165 (this 17-mile road is unpaved after the first few miles beyond its junction with the road leading to Carbon River and the Ipsut Creek campground). At an elevation of 4,950 feet, there are 30 undesignated walk-in sites (requiring a 50-yard walk). The camping area has chemical vault toilets, tables, a refuse bin, and hiking trail access. No RV hookups or potable water are available, and fires are NOT allowed.
Season: July to mid-October
Availability: Road closed for the winter at Paul Peak; managed as a backcountry camp.
Ohanapecosh Campground is located in the southeast corner of the park, 11 miles north of Packwood off SR 123, at an elevation of 1,914 feet. There are 205 indvidual sites, and the campground provides water, flush-type toilets, a trailer dump station, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans, a visitor center, amphitheater, and hiking trail access. There are no RV hookups or showers.
Season: Late May to mid-October
Availability: Reservations only July 1 to Labor Day. For the remainder of the season, the park operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sunshine Point Campground is located in the southwest corner of the park, 2.5 miles inside the Nisqually Entrance, at an elevation of 2,000 feet. There are 18 individual sites, and no group sites. Water, chemical vault toilets, fire grates, tables, and refuse and recycling cans are provided. No RV hookups.
Campsites: 18 individual sites, no group sites.
Season: Open year-round.
Availability: No reservations. Register at the campground.
White River Campground is located in the northeast corner of the park, five miles west of the White River Entrance off SR 410, at an elevation of 4,400 feet. There are 112 individual sites. Water, flush-type toilets, a trailer dump station, fire grates, tables, refuse and recycling cans, and access to hiking trails are available. No RV hookups.
Season: Late June to September
Availability: No reservations. Register at campground.
If you plan to camp anywhere outside an auto campground, you must get a free camping permit from one of the Wilderness Information Centers at Longmire, White River, Wilkeson, or the Paradise Ranger Station. Permits are required year-round, and help park rangers keep track of how many people are in the park and where.
Reserving Wilderness Campsites
There is an in-park Wilderness Reservation System available for climbers and backpackers, but reservations are optional and are often not needed. Call the park's wilderness camping reservation line to leave a telephone reservation request.
Reservations may be requested by phone (voicemail messages may be left), fax, letter, e-mail, or in person starting no earlier than April 1 for trips beginning June 1. Reservations may be requested as close as 24 hours before a trip is scheduled to begin.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication