So many folks flock to Mount Rainier National Park, and Paradise, specifically, in summer that the park uses an electric sign at the Nisqually Entrance to alert incoming visitors to parking problems at Paradise.
Well, on weekends a new shuttle line could make that sign inconsequential for the informed traveler.
Beginning June 21 park visitors will be able to ride a shuttle from Ashford, six miles west of the park’s Nisqually Entrance, to Longmire on Saturdays and Sundays. Shuttles will depart from Ashford every 30 minutes from 9:15 a.m. through 10:45 a.m. and every 75 minutes from noon until 5 p.m.
In Longmire visitors will be able to transfer to a second shuttle that will take them to Paradise. The shuttle from Longmire to Paradise will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 20 through August 31.
And really, if your trip to Mount Rainier is focused on visiting Paradise, this is a great way to accomplish that without having to deal with traffic or parking. And if you're staying in Ashford during your visit, why not take advantage of this shuttle?
Of course, if you want to head to Ohanapecosh or Sunrise your best bet will be to drive yourself. One way to make that drive a bit quicker is to take U.S. Forest Service Road 52, aka the Skate Creek Road, which runs just south of the park's border from Ashford to Packwood. From there you can follow Washington 123 up to Ohanapecosh. This route is very scenic, but is closed in winter.
The National Park Service is working closely with the gateway business community on implementing the shuttle system. The Ashford shuttle will depart from the information kiosk between Whittaker’s Bunkhouse and Whittaker Mountaineering. Free parking will be available.
“This shuttle will help reduce parking congestion at Paradise and give visitors a convenient way to see the park,” says park superintendent Dave Uberuaga.
Mount Rainier instituted a shuttle system in 2006 to mitigate the loss of parking caused by two large construction projects at Paradise. A shuttle ran from Longmire to Paradise and a separate system carried visitors from outlying parking areas to the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise.
“This is the first year we’ve extended the shuttle system outside the park,” said Superintendent Uberuaga. “Providing shuttle service like this is in line with our long-term transportation vision for the park.”
Although the shuttle itself is free, visitors will be required to pay the park entrance fee of $5 per person.