When Mount Rainier’s busy summer season dawns this year, visitors won’t be able to get in unless they have a credit card or electronic way to pay, the national park announced.

Beginning May 26, only electronic card payments — including mobile phone payments — will be accepted for entrance fees and campgrounds.

Visitors who can pay only with cash will be able to buy a prepaid pass from a local vendor before coming to the park. Spokesperson Kevin Bacher said the park is currently working on identifying vendors. They will likely be gateway businesses that already serve a lot of recreational customers, he said.

Only about 2% of visitors over the past few years have used cash, Bacher said.

Hotels, bookstores and restaurants inside the park will still accept cash or card payments, a news release said.

“Moving to a cashless system helps the park manage visitor dollars more effectively,” park superintendent Greg Dudgeon said in the news release last week. “Going cashless reduces the amount of time park staff spend handling cash, increases the amount of fee revenue available to support critical projects and visitor services, and improves accountability while also reducing risk.”


The cashless business model has gained traction in recent years, but it has drawn criticism that cashless payments keep out low-income consumers who don’t bank or own debit or credit cards.

One King County Council proposal aimed to ban cashless payments in retailers this year, saying the move to cashless retailing hurts marginalized communities.

According to estimates, about half of the 2% of visitors who use cash don’t use banks, Bacher said.

“We are aware that this is something that will create a little bit extra of a challenge for them,” Bacher said. “This is the reason why we’re doing all that we can with local businesses to sell the passes and trying to get the word out, because the hardest part would be for people to get to the park and then have to turn around and go back for a pass.”

Bacher said the move will decrease chances of theft and make entrance transactions quicker.

The National Park Service has started cashless payments at other parks, including Joshua Tree and Badlands national parks. Bacher said leadership at Mount Rainier decided to move to cashless because other parks have had success with it.

According to the park, going cashless should increase fee revenue, which is used for work like road and facility repairs and maintenance.

Information about fees and passes is available on the park website.