There are three national parks in the state of Washington: Olympic, Mt. Rainier and North Cascade. Of the three, Mt. Rainier is the most popular among visitors. The best time to visit Mt. Rainier is summer, when days are long and wild flowers flourish the meadows in Sunrise and Paradise. Autumn can also be beautiful with colorful foliage, cool temperature and less visitors. Winter may be cold and harsh at Mt. Rainier National Park, but abundant snowfall creates spectacular scenery making it a popular place to enjoy winter activities.
Below are some tips I gathered from my visits this time of the year. Hopefully it will be helpful to other visitors.
Tip #1: Unless you arrive very early, avoid visiting the park on a fee-free day, or on the first sunny weekend after a long period of rain/snow. This is what you get, if you do:
Tip #2: Always check the weather forecast and follow the park’s twitter feed for road closures. For instance, the gate to Paradise is closed today due to avalanche danger. If you were planning to head to Paradise for any snow activities, you may be disappointed.
Tip #3: Dress for the weather. And don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen.
Tip #4: Always carry snow chains when visiting the park in the winter. It’s a requirement!
While driving in a winter wonderland may sound magical, it is no fun if your car slide off the road. Most tire and auto parts stores carry tire chains. They are also available for rent at the Longmire National Park Inn General Store (inside the park), or to be safe outside of the park at:
30027 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
Tip #5: Know what wheel drive is your car. You will need this information to install the chains on the right wheels.
Tip #6: Parking at Paradise means long waits and delays. But then you get a chance to snap a photo like this, while waiting for your turn.
Tip #7: Your car won’t get past Paradise. Reflection lake, another popular attraction of the park in the summer can only be accessed via snowshoe. Basic knowledge of avalanche evaluation recommended.
Tip #8: There will be people, a lot of them.
Tip #9: Take advantage of Ranger guided snowshoe walks, offered on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from late December to late March, snowshoes provided.
Tip #11: Don’t go on your own. Always have a partner who remains in visual contact at all times.
Tip #13: Keep distance from trees in deep snow area.
Tip #14: Go above treeline for better views.
Tip #15: Be mindful of Longmire gate closing time. Leave enough time to get to the gate.
Have fun and take in the crisp mountain air and this beautiful landscape nature has to offer!