Get a free ticket to Paradise (the last few miles, anyway)
Free shuttles ease the way for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park on summer weekends.
Take the easy route to Paradise, and you don't even have to be good as gold.
On Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 2, a free shuttle bus connects the community of Ashford, just outside Mount Rainier National Park, to Longmire, site of the National Park Inn, where you can catch another free shuttle to the high-elevation destination of Paradise, home to the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center and Paradise Inn (pictured here).
The shuttles save visitors extra driving on winding and narrow mountain roads, eliminate the hunt for parking on busy days, and reduce traffic and pollution in the sensitive park environment.
In Ashford, park at Whittaker Mountaineering and catch the bus at the adjacent information kiosk. Shuttle passengers pay a park entry fee of $5 per person, though families or groups arriving in Ashford in one car pay no more than the usual $15-per-car park fee.
The Longmire-to-Paradise shuttle, which also operates Fridays, will stop at Cougar Rock Campground, and at Narada Falls on the uphill run and the Comet Falls trailhead on the downhill run.
Beware that snow remains on higher-elevation trails and meadows in the park, and that Paradise may not be snow free for weeks to come. For this year's wildflower season, plan a visit in August.
For shuttle schedules and maps, see www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/shuttle.htm. To check current conditions, see Mount Rainier webcams: www.nps.gov/mora/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm. For park information, call 360-569-6575.
Brian J. Cantwell, Seattle Times travel staff