Park shuttles up and running

3:09 pm July 6th, 2012

Free shuttle service for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park has resumed for the summer.

Depending on where they originate, the rides are available two or three days on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They began last weekend and will continue through Sept. 2.

Park officials promote the shuttles as a way for visitors to enjoy the park with a minimum of driving, which helps reduce the amount of vehicle traffic and accompanying noise and pollution. The park annually receives about 1 million visitors.

Here’s the schedule:

• On Saturdays and Sundays, starting a few minutes outside the park in Ashford at Whittaker’s Summit Haus on State Route 706, visitors can ride the round-trip shuttles to Paradise. The latter, with the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, Paradise Inn and trails, almost always has a parking crunch – another good reason for taking the shuttle, officials said. The rides begin at 9:15 a.m., and the last one back to Ashford leaves Longmire at 7:50 p.m.

• Longmire-to-Paradise service is Friday through Sunday. An additional shuttle will carry visitors to and from Paradise Valley Road, where overflow parking will be directed, and the visitor center during the heaviest demand.

The park contracts for the shuttle service with McDonald Transit Associates, a Texas-based company that provides the vehicles and drivers. Annual ridership since the service begain in 2007 has been as high as 30,000-plus.

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