Mount Rainier National Park is a treasure chest in Cascade Range in Pacific North West and is one of the most famous volcanoes on Earth that are in the Ring of Fire. It is consider potentially the most dangerous volcano in the Cascade Range because of its great height, active hydrothermal system, extensive glacier cloak and frequent earthquakes. Mount Rainier is a Stratovolcano at altitude of 14410 feet, the tallest in Cascade volcanic arch. Each corner of the park is beautiful, unique and mesmerizing.
For this reason, some parts of the Mount Rainier National Park can become extremely crowded, particularly in the Summer. Mount Rainier has ski areas, sledding area that are famous during winter and early Spring season. So once the snow falls start in the area, you can find the Solitude of Mt Rainier. When the Seattle Skies clear on a Winter or Spring day, one gets to see the majestic sight of the mountain from distance. All year around, on clear sunny day, the Mount Rainier is visible from Vancouver and Victoria from 200 miles away.
Mount Rainier National Park can be entered from 3 different routes in all seasons except Winter and Spring. Mount Rainier National Park is open all year around. In Winter Mount Rainier National park can be entered through Nisqually Entrance.
There are 4 visitor centers at Mount Rainier National Park.
- Longmire Museum
- Henry M Jackson Visitor Center (Paradise Visitor Center)
- Sunrise Visitor Center (Closed in Winter as buried in Snow)
- Ohanapecosh Visitor Center (Closed in Winter)
The Paradise Valley area at elevation of 5,400 feet is known for its snowfall at Mount Rainier. Paradise every year in winter receives nearly 650 plus inches of snow on an average. And in 1972 that number boomed to 1,122 inches of Snowfall. Winter and Early Spring are an amazing time to explore the beauty of park and added advantage of running in to smaller crowds compare to Summer.
One fine day in Spring, I took the opportunity to explore Mount Rainier National Park and plan a snow shoeing trip with my family. It is 2 hours’ drive (depends on traffic too) from Seattle to Nisqually Entrance at Mount Rainier National Park. There are numerous opportunities for snow shoeing out at park during winter time.
Things to Know for trip in Winter and Spring Season
- Make sure to carry the Essential items for Snow hiking, with an extra focus on warm clothing, food and water. Don’t forget your Snow shoes, Hiking Poles and other Winter Hiking gear to traverse any of trails even though how easy they are. If you don’t have snow shoes, you can get them on rental from shop at Longmire Center or Jackson Visitor Center.
- Check for information at Longmire Center on arriving at National park – This is highly recommended to check on updates at Information center regarding road conditions, trail conditions & best trails to use and trails to avoid. They gave us a map with the trails that were well marked in snow and that could be snow hiked with children.
- You are required to carry Chains in your vehicle to drive up to Paradise at Mt Rainier. Even if you have AWD or 4WD or 2WD. They might ask you at the gate if you have chains in your vehicle. If you do not have chains, then you can be asked to turn back and not enter the park. On Clear and Sunny days in Spring chain is not required to reach Paradise as roads are clear.
- The gate on the road between Longmire (at the base near the entrance to the park) & Paradise is only open from 9am – 5pm during the winter season. Visitor must be down to Longmire by 5pm, so they do require you to leave Paradise by 4:30 pm & they are strict with these time limits.
- Henry M Jackson Visitor Center is open on the weekends and holidays only. If you are planning for visit on week days then make sure to check in with the Longmire Center, so you can get updated map & trail condition information. We visited on weekend and they gave us a map with trails that can be snow hiked with snow shoes.
- Pack a Snacks and lunch. There are limited places to eat in Mt Rainier, so better pack lunch and snacks to bring with you. The Henry M Jackson Visitor Center up at Paradise does have a snack area but it’s open only 11 am- 4:00 during Winter and early Spring.
- In the Winter and Spring, before planning your trip check ahead to make sure the roads to Paradise are open. Always remember to check with Rangers at Visitor Centers before starting your snow shoeing or hiking. For this post, I have mentioned the snow shoes trails that we were able to explore during our visit in Spring.
Easy Snowy Hikes that can be done with Family and kids
Nisqually River Wooden Suspension Bridge
Nisqually River wooden suspension bridge is located at Longmire village in Mount Rainier National Park. It can be reached by 5 mins walking from Longmire Musuem or you can drive till end of road and park at Longmire Village. The Bridge is snow free in Spring.
Nisqually River Suspension Bridge is the oldest lasting road bridge in Mount Rainier National Park and is one of the few road-bearing suspension bridges in the National Park system. The Timber bridge reflects the park’s “rustic style” through its use of native material in an attempt to harmonize with the rugged park landscape
Trail of the Shadows
It is an 0.7-mile loop trail on level terrain. The trail can be reached from Longmire Museum and Parking area. The trail begins across the road from the National Park Inn.
We were lucky to get view of fox on our way to Paradise.
Snowshoe Trails at Mount Rainier
Nisqually Vista Trail
Nisqually Vista Trail is highly recommended trail that can be done with children and family. The loop trail is 1.6 mile round trip from lower parking lot at Paradise. The trail is well marked snowshoe route with orange and pink wands marking the way. It is not along avalanche prone slopes so can say its safe and easy to get. The trail is very beautiful with turn around point on the trail with view of Nisqually Glacier.
Alta vista Loop trail
The Alta Vista Loop is one of the trails located at Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park. It is 1.8-mile round trip with elevation gain of 550 feet. The trail was snow paved and well-marked for snow shoe hikers.
Myrtle Falls trails
Myrtle Falls trail is located at Paradise. It is located with scenic view of Mount Rainier in background. The falls can be reached from Paradise Visitor Center or Paradise Parking lot by walking 0.4 mile either on Golden gate trails or Skyline trail. But in Winter season the Myrtle Falls is buried under depth of snow and there is no sign of Myrtle falls.
Hike to Panorama Point Trail
As we move ahead after reaching Myrtle falls spot, the trail leads to Panorama point. It is a 5.4-mile round trip to Jackson Visitor Center. It is not recommended with small kids as it is moderate climb and a long hike to Panorama point which requires expertise with Snow gears and back up plan if things go wrong. Also it is in avalanche prone zone so better check at Jackson Visitor center to make sure if it is safe to hike. We started on this trail but turned around half way as weather started changing and was getting dark. It is important to keep track of time as the trail goes much farther. In winter one need to fix a turnaround time that will help you to get back to car and before the gate to Paradise gets closed at Longmire.
Do Read on my Next Post on detailed information on “Hike to Panorama Point”. As the trail is 5.4 miles and require more time to finish.
Narada Falls is popular tourist spots in all seasons. In Winter and Early spring, the falls is covered with layers of snow.
Other things to do at Mount Rainier National Park in Winter and Spring
SnowPlay – Sledding and Sliding
Families with small kids and children can enjoy at Snow Play area. The snowplay area at Paradise is generally open late December through mid-April depending on snow. Sledding and sliding are permitted only in the designated snow play area at Paradise, located immediately north of the upper parking lot.
Ranger-Guided Snowshoe Walks
Snowshoe walks with Park Ranger program is to make one learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how plants, animals, and people adapt to the challenging winter conditions at Mount Rainier. Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.8 miles in 2 hours. Snowshoe walks are limited to 25 people, eight years old or older, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Skiing, Snowboarding and Snowmobiling
Mount Rainier National Park is famous for back country skiing. The Skiers hikes from Paradise visitor center parking lot to scenic view points like Panorama point with view of Tatoosh mountains to the south and an epic view of Mount Rainier. Experienced Skiers and snow boarders hike up to Camp Muir at 10,080-feet elevation and then skiing or boarding down the broad Muir snowfield right back to starting point at Paradise. Visitors have a short daily window for skiing the snowfield.
Snow Camping with Permits
There are many snow camping options with Permit at the park, if you looking to enjoy the solitude of Mount Rainier.
If you are not interested in any of the above adventures of snow shoeing or snow sledding, then you can find warm Hotel and Lodges with cozy bed and enjoy the stunning views of snowy mountain.
Lot of hard work and efforts are made by Park Rangers, Snow Removal device operators and crew for keeping the park accessible during Winter and Spring.
Check for Information regarding Road status, Weather, Operating hours , Live Webcams and other services on Mount Rainier National Park site.
Even if you are not interested for snow hike or any adventure, a visit to Mount Rainier in Winter or Early spring is a must to experience the beauty and Solitude of the Mountain. It is perfect destination for Long drive and enjoying the Panoramic views from pull out points. For information on Roadside attractions at Mount Rainier, Do Read on my post on Must Visit places at Mount Rainier National Park
Have you been to Mount Rainier National Park in Winter or Spring season for hiking or visit? What was your most amazing experience? What is your favorite family trail?
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.Paul Tillich
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