Revitalizing small towns and creating new recreation opportunities at Washington’s most iconic mountain

July 26, 2013


Of the over 1.5 million people who will visit Mount Rainier this year, around half a million will visit through the Carbon River entrance, the closest park access point to the biggest population centers in the region, including nearby Puyallup and Tacoma.

Thanks to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the entrance is getting back to full swing and more and more visitors are able to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of Mount Rainier from that entrance.

“Getting the Carbon River entrance back in full swing is vital,” says Ian Galbraith, a City Councilmember in the town of Wilkeson at the base of Mount Rainier “I can’t imagine long term success for our communities if this entrance isn’t drawing visitors. I think Mount Rainier is essential for the future of Wilkeson and the rest of the communities surrounding the Mountain.”

Gailbraith is also a small business owner, working to open a restaurant in the town.

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$1 million from the LWCF – none of it taxpayer dollars – has just been awarded to Mount Rainier National Park to complete acquisition of valuable properties in the Carbon River Addition totaling 226 acres.

“We in Wilkeson want to be a gateway to this entrance,” says Gailbraith. “If this town wants to succeed in any way we need to build our commerce to cater to tourism.”

Over the fourth of July weekend, the new Carbon River Ranger Station welcomed visitors during an opening party. The station once was the home of John and Yolanda Thompson, a structure that was bought along with 755 acres in 2010 with LWCF dollars. John Thompson was present for the opening ceremony and spoke emotionally about how he and his wife had always wanted their home to benefit the public and the Carbon River Valley they love so much.

There are big plans to increase access for recreation and to ensure families from all over Washington – and towns nearby – can enjoy the valley. A year-round campground is being considered near the new ranger station, and there are efforts to push the county’s Foothills Trail all the way to the park boundary so that cyclists could eventually ride from Tacoma to the park.

So go check out the new Carbon River Ranger Station and explore some of the many beautiful hikes at that entrance. Here are a couple of our (and Coalition member Washington Trails Association’s) favorites: