November’s storms mark the transition from snow-free to winter conditions at Mount Rainier, one of the snowiest places on the planet.
Superintendent Randy King said “Mount Rainier provides outstanding winter recreation opportunities and has been doing so for over 100 years. It’s a wonderful time to visit the park and area, provided visitors come prepared for winter conditions. The recent, successful search for two overdue snowboarders above Paradise, and the tragic deaths of five visitors last winter, remind us that safe backcountry travel – whether going out for the day, or overnight - requires a high level of preparation, caution and knowledge.”
The park transitioned to winter hours of operation and services in early November. The gate at Longmire is closed nightly through March to keep visitors and plow operators safe during road opening. New this winter and starting November 27, the road between Longmire and Paradise will be closed to public travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Longmire and the park will remain open seven days a week, barring major storm events.
“We are strategically deploying available park staff and resources to provide access to Paradise Thursday through Monday, the five days of the week with greatest visitation”, King said.
Visitation statistics show that Tuesday and Wednesday are, on average, the park’s least visited days, with fewer than 60 visitor vehicles coming through the Nisqually Entrance on a typical day. By focusing staff on fewer days, the park will be better able to provide access and services during times of greatest visitation, including more consistent road plowing and emergency patrols for visitor safety. The area above Longmire will be closed to overnight camping on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because safe road access won’t be available.
On Thursdays through Mondays, and every day during the Christmas holiday, the road from Longmire to Paradise will open as soon as the park’s snow plows can make it safe for travel. In good weather the road may open as early as 7:00 AM, but in bad weather (or following a heavy snowfall) the road opening may be delayed until late morning or, in some cases, may not open at all. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when entering the park. Road conditions can deteriorate quickly during the day and mandatory chain use may be required even for 4WD vehicles.
To better accommodate visitor needs and reduce energy costs, the visitor information center at Longmire will move across the road from the Longmire Museum to the historic Administration Building, in the space occupied by the Wilderness Information Center during the summer. Park rangers will be available seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM to provide information on hikes, locations of interest, and interpretive map talks for winter visitors to the Longmire Historic District. Watch for more information on hikes and other exciting programs that will be offered at Longmire on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!
Located at Longmire, the historic National Park Inn is open year round, providing dining, lodging and a gift shop. For reservations call 360-569-2275. Businesses in the gateway communities are also open throughout the winter. Check these websites for contact information: www.visitrainier.com, www.mt-rainier.com, www.minerallake.com, www.mtrainierguestservices.com, www.staycrystal.com, or www.destinationpackwood.com
The Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise will be open on weekends and holidays through March. The Paradise snowplay/sledding area will open during the Christmas holiday provided snow depth is adequate.
Highways 123 and 410, and the Stevens Canyon Road east of Paradise, and the White River, Sunrise and Mowich Lake Roads are now closed to vehicle access for the winter, but remain open to winter recreation.
There’s always plenty to do in and around Mount Rainier, any day of the week!