Mount Rainier National Park
|A group of tents huddle in a high alpine area.|
Mt. Rainier National Park is a popular place to enjoy winter activities. Snows usually begin in earnest in late October or early November. It is recommended that winter enthusiasts check the weather forecast prior to heading to Mt. Rainier for up-to-date information.
A map of the winter use areas near Paradise is available online or from the Jackson Visitor Center in the Paradise Area. Most winter activities take place in the southern half of the park near Paradise and Longmire (see map of the park).
When there is sufficient snow, park rangers or volunteers mark some trails for ski touring. Check the Mountain Weather and Avalanche Forecast Web site before starting your trip, whether it is just for the day or for a week. If you will be camping overnight at one of the park's wilderness sites, you will need a Wilderness Permit.
Not all ski routes are marked, and conditions vary significantly due to weather.
Novice Routes: Burn Flats (unmarked .75 mile), Paradise Valley Road and Sevens Canyon Road to Reflection Lakes (unmarked 6.75 miles; prone to avalanches. Be sure to check the avalanche forecast).
Intermediate Routes: Nisqually Vista Loop (marked 1.25 miles), Edith Creek Basin (unmarked 1.5 miles), Glacier Vista (unmarked 3 miles), Mazama Ridge (unmarked 5.5 miles), Paradise to Narada Falls (marked 3.25 miles)
Advanced Routes: Skyline Loop (unmarked 6 miles), Camp Muir (unmarked 9 miles)
In the past, meadow damage caused by snowboarders when little snow cover was in the meadows resulted in the temporary closure of the entire park to snowboarding until approximately three feet of snow was on the ground. Please help rangers avoid having to do this again. A closure will not be necessary if you snowboard only on the Muir Snowfield when there is insufficient snow elsewhere. This helps prevent damage to your snowboard as well.
The Muir Snowfield is two miles above Paradise on the route to Camp Muir. It involves hiking from the 5,400-foot elevation at Paradise to the 7,200-foot elevation at Pebble Creek where the Muir Snowfield begins. It takes most people about 1.5 hours to reach the Muir Snowfield, and should not be tackled without serious preparation. Sudden change in weather and visibility at this elevation are not uncommon.
The Snowplay Area is on a small hill on the east side of the upper parking lot at Paradise. Its relatively small size and gentle slopes are intended primarily for the use of younger children. The Snowplay Area will normally be supervised by park rangers on weekends and holiday periods only.
Sliding is permitted only in this designated Snowplay Area. Because of the high potential for personal injury and frequency of accidents, no other area of the park is ever open to sliding activities (except skiing and snowboarding). Serious injuries have occurred elsewhere when people mistakenly slid over waterfalls, into trees, down slopes that were too steep, broken through thin snow into stream gorges, or slammed into other people.
For your enjoyment and safety, the park asks sliders to use only inner tubes, plastic sleds, saucers, or other soft sliding devices. No wooden toboggans, runner sleds with metal edges, or other hard devices are permitted.
Snowshoeing is becoming an increasingly popular activity at Mt. Rainier. Park rangers lead guided tours in the winter, and at certain times reservations might be needed. Contact the Longmire Information Center for more information on scheduled snowshoe tours and self-guided trails within the park.
Camping on snow is allowed almost anywhere in the park once enough snow has accumulated to protect vegetation. This means when snow has reached a depth of five feet at Paradise and two feet elsewhere in the park.
Backcountry permits are required year-round, and are available at the following Visitor Centers: Longmire Museum, Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, and the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station.
To avoid being buried by snow blowers, choose a snow camp at least 200 feet from plowed roads and parking areas. Don't walk or ski on the roads early in the morning and at night; plow drivers won't be able to see you in time to stop. As with any campsite, pack out all the trash you bring in. Litter and old campsites may look innocent enough buried in the snow, but spring melts will reveal the debris.
Groups of more than 12 people are directed to snow camp only at Paradise. If you plan to camp overnight you MUST park your vehicle in the designated overnight parking areas at Paradise, Narada Falls, or Longmire.
In the southwest corner of the park, snowmobiles are permitted for three miles along the Westside Road from its junction with the main park road as far as Fish Creek. Beyond Fish Creek, the Westside Road is closed to motorized travel both winter and summer. Snowmobiles are also permitted on all the road loops of Cougar Rock Campground. The campground is closed to overnight use during winter and the roadway is left unplowed. Contact a park ranger at the Longmire Museum for maps and additional snowmobile information.
On the north side of the park, no ranger station is open in the winter; contact the US Forest Service District Office in Enumclaw for information, maps and permits, and state parking permits for White River, Carbon River, and Mowich Lake areas.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication