That’s when Mount Rainier National Park begins accepting wilderness camping requests for the 2018 backpacking/climbing season. After a couple years of technical challenges, the park says it’s ready.

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On March 15, Mount Rainier National Park begins accepting wilderness-camping reservation requests for the 2018 backpacking/climbing season, and park officials believe their online reservation system is ready for an anticipated torrent of applications — including for the increasingly popular Wonderland Trail circumnavigating Rainier.

Lindsey Kurnath, Rainier’s chief of administration and business management, acknowledges the park’s computer system was challenged the past two years.

In 2016, the park issued only walk-up permits for full-circuit Wonderland Trail hikes after a March storm caused a power surge that deactivated the reservation system for days. In 2017, the system was swamped with a record number of reservation requests (5,800 in the first two weeks, more than double the previous high). The annual quota of Wonderland Trail permits is 1,200, so rangers soon stopped issuing reservations for the route.

Kurnath says the reservation system has been fortified for 2018. “We’ve fixed the problem that occurred in 2016 which caused the critical failure,” she said.

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The park will implement a new program in 2019, in which “instead of blindly submitting an application, visitors are going to be able to see what sites are available” she said. “If you want to be at Summerland on this day, you can build your trip around that campsite availability. It will be a much more build-your-own-trip kind of process, more interactive.”

Roughly 70 percent of Rainier’s backcountry campsites can be reserved. Others are kept for free walk-up permits, available on the day of (or day before) the start of a trip.

To make a backcountry reservation request, use the park’s online wilderness permit page ( starting March 15 at 9 a.m. PDT.

Requests received between March 15 and 31 will be processed in random order. After that, requests will be processed in the order received.

One change: Because demand has soared (Rainier never received more than 1,000 reservation requests annually until 2013), the park will now charge its usual $20 reservation fee as a nonrefundable application fee. If all reservable campsites are filled and no reservation is granted, the fee is still charged.

“We stopped accepting requests for Wonderland Trail reservations last year once we knew the summer was booked,” Kurnath said. “We do not want visitors paying for a service we cannot provide. We plan to do the same this year.”