The beautiful, snowy peaks of Mount Rainier means it’s time for winter sports.

Recent storms have set the stage for winter recreation at Mount Rainier National Park with enough snow at Paradise for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding, a National Parks Service press release stated.

The Paradise snow play area remains closed due to an insufficient snow depth. A sufficient snowpack is needed throughout the area to create the run and the containment berm, and to prevent resource damage from the grooming equipment and sledding activity. The Paradise snow play area is the only location in the park where visitors are allowed to use soft-sided sliding devices, such as 100 percent plastic sleds, saucers or disks.

Beginning Friday, Dec. 21, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise will open throughout the winter from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Fridays through Sunday. The visitor center will be open daily from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, and open on Jan. 21 and February 18.

Ranger guided snowshoe walks at Paradise are scheduled from Saturday, Dec. 22, through March 31, 2019.  The walks are offered on weekends and holiday periods at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and last for two hours.  Sign-ups begin one hour in advance of each walk at the Jackson Visitor Center information desk and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The park offers a limited number of snowshoe walks for organized groups of 15 to 25 people, the press release stated. Group snowshoe walk reservations can be made by calling (360)569-6575 between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. If the gate opening between Longmire and Paradise is delayed, snowshoe walk times may be adjusted or led from the Longmire Museum.  

The Longmire area is open seven days a week, unless major storm events require closure. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 pm, the Longmire Museum provides general park information, winter activity guidance, backcountry permits, and Discover Your Northwest books and maps for sale.  The historic National Park Inn is also open daily and provides lodging, food, gifts and snowshoe and ski rentals.  For reservations, call (360)569-2275 or visit mtrainierguestservices.com.

The main gate at the southwest entrance to the park will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless conditions require a temporary closure. The higher elevation gate, located on the road between Longmire and Paradise is closed nightly to ensure visitor and staff safety, with uphill access closing at 4 p.m. to allow for visitors and staff to exit safely.

Visitors are reminded that all vehicles, including four-wheel-drive, are required to carry tire chains or other state-approved traction devices when traveling in the park from Nov. 1 through May 1.  Road conditions can deteriorate quickly at any time and mandatory chain use may be required even for 4WD vehicles the press release stated. Tire chains are available for rent or for sale in Ashford, and for sale at the National Park Inn gift shop in Longmire.

Overnight winter camping is allowed in many areas throughout the park with a valid permit; however, access is dependent on road conditions and snow depth, as follows:

  • In the Paradise Day Use Zone (surrounding Paradise, outside of Wilderness), camping is permitted when snow depth exceeds five feet at the campsite. All Paradise Zone camping must be at least 300-feet from buildings, roads, established winter trails and the designated sledding area. The maximum party size is 12 persons.
  • Elsewhere the park, camping is permitted in undeveloped areas, where snow depth is at least two feet. Campsites must be more than 200-feet from roads and at least 300-feet from lakes, streams and wetlands. The maximum party size is 12 persons.

Campers should plan travel with gate closures in mind.  Overnight camping in vehicles is not allowed in the park. For camping reservations, call (360)569-6575 between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

Backcountry travelers are encouraged to get updates on weather conditions, current and projected snow, and avalanche conditions before coming to the park.  Additionally, backcountry travelers must heed warnings, and come prepared to survive winter conditions. 

Park entrance passes can be purchased electronically prior visiting Mount Rainier National Park through yourpassnow.com, at no additional cost. Once purchased, passes are emailed and can be used immediately or stored on a personal device for a future use. Passes must be printed prior to use at Mount Rainier. While in the park, the paper copy is presented at entrance stations and displayed on the vehicle dashboard, particularly when the vehicle is parked at trailheads, campgrounds, and park inns. Connectivity is limited or non-existent in the park, therefore printing the permit in advance is required.

Vehicle access to other areas of the park is closed for the winter, but the following areas remain open for recreation. Please note that temporary closures may become necessary due to changing conditions:

  • Carbon River Road
  • Mowich Lake Road
  • Paradise Valley Road
  • Ricksecker Point Road
  • State Route 123 (Cayuse Pass)
  • State Route 410 (Chinook Pass)
  • Stevens Canyon Road
  • Sunrise Road
  • Westside Road
  • White River Road

Information on current park road closures and weather conditions can be obtained by calling the park at (360)569-2211 for recorded information that is updated regularly.  Park information, announcements, and the Mount Rainier webcams are available on the park’s official website, nps.gov/mora