The first hikers to reach the Fremont Lookout on Friday morning, opening day at Sunrise, were surprised to have the dynamic view of Mount Rainier to themselves for nearly an hour.
As 11 a.m. approached, a pair of skiers made their way across the ridge looking for a perfect line. Moments late a solo hiker marched up the trail. Then, a helicopter arrived, presumably delivering summer supplies to the lookout.
Visitors are expected to keep coming for the rest of the summer. And in large numbers, according to Mount Rainier National Park officials.
The park says it is already experiencing high visitation creating long waits at entrances, heavy traffic and limited parking.
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The park issued a statement Friday stating, “Visitors to Mount Rainier National Park are encouraged to visit on weekdays and arrive in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid long waits at entrances and move easily to find a parking spot.”
Park officials are working on ways to reduce congestion, which has frustrated not only visitors but some in gateway communities such as Ashford.
At Paradise, overflow parking is available at the Paradise Picnic Area and along Paradise Valley Road. At Sunrise, vehicles are held at the White River Entrance Station when the lot is full.
With Friday’s opening of the Sunrise and Mowich Lake roads, most park facilities and roads are open for the summer. Ricksecker Point will remain closed due to the road paving project between Longmire and Paradise.
“There are incredible experiences throughout the park and the surrounding areas,” Randy King, Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent, said in statement released by the park. “By planning your trip to avoid peak congestion times, you may find that you spend less time looking for parking and more time enjoying the park.”