Snowshoe Trails at Mount Rainier –Family Hikes

Snow shoes trails at Mount Rainier National Park

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.

Nisqually Entrance at Mount Rainier National Park in Winter and Spring.

Nisqually Entrance at Mount Rainier National Park

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. 

Roads leading to Paradise valley at Mount Rainier National Park in Spring.
On the way to Paradise

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.
Snow Shoes and Hiking poles for Winter Snowy Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.  Snowy Hikes in Early Spring at Mount Rainier
Snow Shoes and Hiking Poles
  • 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.
Old Architecture Building at Longmire
Old Architecture Building at Longmire
Longmire Musuem- Ancient Wooden Artifact about Timelines of  Park
Longmire Musuem- Ancient Wooden Artifact about Timelines of Park
  • 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.
Snow surrounded Henry M Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise in Spring 2019
Snow surrounded by Henry M Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise
Walking in between Snow walls at Jackson Visitor Center in  Spring 2019.
Walking in between Snow walls at Jackson Visitor Center
Inside view of Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise.  Rangers helping with information.
Inside view of Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. Rangers helping with information.
  • 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

View of Rustic Style Bridge
View of Rustic Style Bridge

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.

Sign Board of Trail of Shadows buried in Snow  at Longmire,  Mount Rainier National Park
Sign Board of Trail of Shadows buried in Snow
Trail of Shadows covered with snow  at Longmire. Mount Rainier National Park
Trail of Shadows covered with snow

We were lucky to get view of fox on our way to Paradise.

Fox sight at Mount Rainier National Park in Winter. On the way to Paradise valley. Fox , wildlife.
Fox sighting at MRNP
Lovely Bird getting attention at Paradise Parking Lot.
Lovely Bird drawing attention at Paradise Parking Lot.

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.

Beautiful views on Nisqually Vista trail at Paradise, Mount Rainier NPS.  Park at lower Parking lot at Paradise
Some where on Nisqually Vista trail
Snow shoeing On Nisqually Vista loop trail in Spring at Mount Rainier
Snow shoeing On Nisqually Vista loop trail

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.

Snow covered On Alta vista trail at Mount Rainier National park
Somewhere on Trail

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.

Majestic view of Mount Rainier on trail near to Myrtle Falls spot
Majestic view of Mount Rainier on trail near to Myrtle Falls spot
Winter Hike at Mount Rainier National Park.  Snow shoes trails with children at Mount Rainier.  Paradise at Henry M Jackson Visitor Center.

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.

Majestic view of Mount Rainier with blue sky
Paradise Inn submerged under snow

Narada Falls

Narada Falls is popular tourist spots in all seasons. In Winter and Early spring, the falls is covered with layers of snow.

Snow covered Narada Falls in Winter and spring.
Snow covered Narada Falls
Snow covered Narada Falls
 

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.

Snow Play Area at Paradise
Snow Play Area at Paradise

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.  

Snow Campers finding Solitude on trail to Panorama Point
Snow Campers finding Solitude on trail to Panorama Point

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.

. View of National Park Inn surrounded with snow
Snowy view of National Park Inn
View of Mount Rainier, Skiers and snow shoers at Panorama point trail.

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.

View of Snow Removal vehicle with heavy chains on wheel for traction purpose at Mount Rainier National Park.  Paradise Parking lot.
Snow Removal Vehicle with Chains

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

View of Mount Rainier with blue skies.

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
Old Surviving Wooden Suspension Bridge on Nisqually River
Old Surviving Wooden Suspension Bridge on Nisqually River

Stay Healthy. Happy Traveling…

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15 thoughts on “Snowshoe Trails at Mount Rainier –Family Hikes

  1. So beautiful! Looks like it would be difficult with all of that snow, but I’ve never gone snow-shoeing before! Maybe I’ll have to look into getting that experience myself!

  2. Kitty Katie

    Wow! This is breath taking and beyond beautiful. I love to hike and this is like a dream location. One day I hope to hike here too! Fantastic content!

  3. Excellent information for any spring trip to Mt. Rainier. I haven’t used snowshoes, just drove up once in spring and enjoyed the snow. What a sight it is, at any time of the year. I love seeing the inn with all that snow around it – and the fox! Wow, lucky you. Best of luck as you continue exploring the area, and staying healthy.

  4. Great information about snowshoeing trails at Mt. Rainier. I found this information very useful for my recent adventure trip to Mount Rainier National Park. Found about this blog from the trip report you wrote on Washington Trail Association website. Keep Sharing valuable information on hiking, trails in PNW. Thank you

  5. Gorgeous scenery! I have never snowshoed, but my daughter and her family have recently discovered it after moving to Colorado. Washington state is on my list of places to go, but now I don’t know which season would be best.

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