At the end of this post you'll find a video listing the top sights and tips for a visit to Mount Rainier, one of Washington State's three National Parks .  The other two being North Cascades and Olympic National Park.  So why are we talking about the parks?  Well, the weather is great and maybe it's time to get back out there and take in some of the incredible beauty of Washington and because how we are able to access our National Parks may be changing.

The Coronavirus has had a big impact on almost all aspects of normal life but we're told that outside in the fresh air is the best place to be.  Surely a trip to one of America's 62 National Parks would seem to be a reasonable and safe getaway, right?  People still went out to see the parks last year but the impact of COVID-19 reduced the number of visits by 9 and a half million over 2019.

The most recent numbers show the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had 12.1 million visitors last year which is more than three times the number of the next closest park which was Yellowstone.

The Olympic National Park, our state's top spot was number nine on the list of most visited parks with 2 1/2 million people popping in to see nearly a million acres of awesomeness including beaches, rugged coastlines, dense rainforests and mountains.

For now you don't need a reservation to get in but that process is being explored and in use in some parks.  Popular Science says, "National Parks in the U.S. are pretty amazing, but you might need a reservation to get into them permanently. For the second consecutive year, reservations are required to visit Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Glacier national parks. Other popular sites, including Maine’s Acadia National Park, are encouraging visitors to buy entrance passes in advance. Many of the most popular parks are limiting their capacity to some extent (it varies by park.)"

From 2010 to 2019, the number of folks visiting our parks jumped by nearly 50 million so the idea of limiting visitors would help limit risks to COVID and would help some parks prevent and recover from wildfires.

Michael Childers is an assistant professor of History at Colorado State University.  He writes in Popular Science about what he calls an overcrowding crisis, " I believe the most popular national parks need a reservation system to save these protected lands from further damage....This won’t be a popular solution, since it contradicts the founding premise that national parks were built for public benefit and enjoyment....but the parks unrelenting popularity is making it impossible to preserve them “unimpaired.” In my view, crowd control has become essential in the most popular parks."

The bottom line for this article is - go see 'em while you can!

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