MT. RAINIER - With snow beginning to accumulate and winter recreation demand starting to increase, Mount Rainier National Park staff are preparing for winter operations and visitors.
Superintendent Randy King notes that “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 well-prepared for the snow and road conditions. Safe back country travel in winter requires an especially high level of preparation, caution and knowledge.”
The park earlier this week transitioned to winter hours of operation and service. As in past years, the road gate immediately above Longmire is closed nightly to ensure visitor safety and the safety of park staff, including rangers and the road crew. Rangers and snow plow operators evaluate road, weather, avalanche and staffing conditions every morning in making a decision on whether it is safe to open the Paradise road above Longmire. All times are subject to change based on weather and road conditions.
Visitors planning a trip to Paradise should check for current road status and weather on the park’s website.
“Due to the reduced and uncertain budget picture, we are strategically deploying available park staff and resources to provide as much access as possible,” said King.
Between now and Dec. 21, the gate at Longmire will open Thursdays through Mondays, at 9 a.m. The road will close nightly at 5 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4 p.m. to allow time for visitors and staff to exit safely. The gate will not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during this period.
Between Dec. 21 and the end of March, the goal will be to provide access to Paradise every day of the week. The target open hours for the road above Longmire during this period will continue as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4 p.m.
The entire park is open for visitor use throughout the winter season, including overnight winter camping with a valid permit seven days a week. Overnight campers should plan their travels with an understanding of nightly or scheduled gate closures. Visitors camping at Paradise between now and Dec. 21 should not plan on driving out on Tuesday and Wednesday when the road is closed.
The Longmire area will remain open seven days a week, barring major storm events. This includes the historic National Park Inn.
For reservations at the National Park Inn, call 360-569-2275 or visit www.mtrainierguestservices.com. With the exception of the Thanksgiving and December holiday periods, general park information, including winter activity guidance, back country permits and sales of park books and maps from Discover Your Northwest will be available.
The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The visitor center will also be open on Thanksgiving and the Friday that follows, as well as Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. During weekdays, park rangers will be available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Longmire Visitor Information Center (historic Longmire Administration Building).
Visitors are reminded that all vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park, including four-wheel-drive. Tire chains are available at the Summit House in Ashford. Road conditions can deteriorate quickly at any time and mandatory chain use may be required for all vehicles.
At this time, state routes 123 and 410 remain open, depending on changing weather conditions. The Stevens Canyon Road east of Paradise, the White River, Sunrise and Mowich Lake Roads are now closed to vehicle access for the winter, but remain open to winter recreation.
Visitors are encouraged to obtain up-to-the-minute updates on road conditions and restrictions by calling the park at 360-569-2211 for recorded information.