Mount Rainier is spectacular any time of year, but especially in the winter. Paradise at Mount Rainier is one the snowiest places in the United States. With constant fresh snow, it is perfect for exploring in the wintertime.
One of the best ways to enjoy the snow at Mount Rainier is by snowshoeing.
This post will tell you all need to know about snowshoeing at Mount Rainier and help you get on the (snowy) trail whether you’ve never snowshoed before or it’s your fiftieth time.
****Note: This post may include affiliate links to products I recommend. I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) from purchases from these links. But no worries, I only include links to products that we have tried or truly recommend!
*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
About Snowshoeing at Mount Rainier
If you haven’t snowshoed before, you may wonder why snowshoeing is necessary versus walking in the snow with normal shoes or boots. However snowshoeing is so much better and safer when in deep snow than using shoes only. In areas where there is a lot of snow (like Mount Rainier), the snow can be very deep, deeper than you may expect.
It is hard to tell whether the snow is firm or not, so you can easily fall through the snow if it is not packed down, creating large holes in the snow that can become hazardous; this is called post-holing. Using snowshoes prevents you from falling down in the snow, post-holing, or slipping. In addition to preventing sinking in the snow, there are also sharp pieces of metal on the snowshoe that dig down into the snow, preventing you from slipping if it is icy or if you are on a grade.
Where to get snowshoes near Mount Rainier
Ranger-Guided Snowshoe Hike
On weekends in the winter, park rangers offer ranger-guided snowshoe hikes. The hike is a little less than 2 miles and lasts around 2 hours. If you do the ranger-guided snowshoe hike, snowshoes are provided for a small donation. For more information about the ranger-guided hikes and requirements, visit national park website.
If you want to snowshoe on your own or on a day that there is not a ranger-guided hike, I recommend renting snowshoes if it is your first time. There are few ways to rent snowshoes.
The National Park Inn General Store at Longmire (not far after the Nisqually Entrance) offers snowshoe rentals. There is no way to reserve these rentals in advance and they are first-come, first serve. You could rent these on the day of your visit before you head up to Paradise or other location you plan to snowshoe.
Right outside of the park in the Ashford, Whittaker Mountaineering offers snowshoe rentals that can be rented in advance online.
Many other places farther away from the park offers rentals. REI offers snowshoe rentals (and many other rentals). A small business in Seattle that I absolutely love that offers snowshoe rentals is Gearhouse located over in Capital Hill. They also have gear rental memberships which I thought is pretty neat.
If you foresee yourself snowshoeing frequently, or multiple times in the winter, it may be worth it to you to purchase snowshoes. There are all types of snowshoes that you can purchase. We purchased our snowshoes several years ago on Amazon and they weren’t too expensive and work great for us.
If you want a fancy, name-brand pair of snowshoes, this MSR pair is the way to go. If you purchase, make sure you buy the appropriate size based on your weight.
Where to snowshoe at Mount Rainier
Paradise is the most popular spot to visit in the winter for snowshoeing and all winter activities in Mount Rainier National Park. We snowshoed at Paradise, but we encountered many people sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and split-boarding.
If you are new to snowshoeing, Myrtle Falls is a great trail to take. From the main parking lot you can start the hike to Myrtle Falls, which is less than a mile round-trip and has around 150 feet of elevation gain. The hike weaves through snow-covered pine trees and ends at Myrtle Falls. On a clear day, you can see great views of Mount Rainier near the falls.
If you are more experienced or would like to try a more difficult trail, I recommend snowshoeing the Skyline Trail. Depending on the conditions, you may or may-not be able to reach the Panorama Point. We were unable to make it all the way to Panorama Point when we went, but it was absolutely gorgeous none-the-less. We made it as far as Glacier Vista and then continued on a winter path loop down to Myrtle Falls.
On the day that we went, it was so clear, with mountain views all around. We were able to see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood way in the distance. Getting up at a slightly higher elevation than the main Paradise area, gave such incredible views. If it is a nice day, I really recommend doing at least part of the Skyline Trail for incredible views snowshoeing.
Narada Falls is on the road up to Paradise and can only be accessed if the road to Paradise is open. The trail from the parking lot is only around 0.3 miles. From the parking lot you can see the top of the falls and hear the falls, however you cannot see the full falls unless you like the trail down to the falls. It is very dangerous and icy to hike to the bottom of the falls in the winter, so I don’t recommend this.
From Narada Falls, you can also snowshoe the 3.75 mile roundtrip trail to Reflection Lakes. In the summer Reflection Lakes is beside the road, but the only way to access in the winter is to snowshoe from Narada Falls. This is much less popular than Paradise, so this may be the best hike for you if you are wanting a hike with less people on the trail.
Since Longmire is at a lower elevation, it is open all year round, even if the road up to Paradise is closed. Longmire is a great option, especially if you planned your visit at a time that the road up to Paradise is closed. There are two main trails that are popular for snowshoeing near Longmire.
Rampart Ridge Trail: 4.6 miles, 1339 feet of elevation gain
Wonderland trail to Cougar Rock Campground: 2.8 miles round-trip, follows Nisqually River
Note that if you visit Longmire in the earlier part of the winter season, there may not be snow on the ground or at least enough snow for snowshoeing. When we visited in early January, there was not enough snow for snowshoeing at Longmire as it had recently been warm. For more information on the trails at Longmire in the winter, visit the national park website.
Tips for snowshoeing at Mount Rainier
Be prepared for extreme weather and abrupt weather changes
Mount Rainier is known for extreme weather. Paradise at Mount Rainier receives the most snowfall out of any place in the entire United States. The weather can change quickly and what was once a nice sunny day can turn into a blizzard. Be prepared for any possible winter conditions with appropriate gear with you at all times. Check the weather before you head up the mountain so that you can be adequately prepared.
Be aware of driving conditions to Paradise
The road conditions are constantly changing the road to Paradise is only open on certain days of the week. The opening time of the road on days that the road is open is usually 9 am but this can definitely change depending on weather conditions. Be sure to check the road conditions on the Mount Rainier National Park website prior to driving towards Mount Rainier in the case that the road is closed.
There are certain vehicle requirements for driving to Paradise as well. You are required to have chains or approved auto socks in your vehicle throughout the winter season regardless of how great your vehicle is in the snow. At some points in the season, chains are required on all vehicles to continue on the road. Make sure that you meet the vehicle requirements and know how to use chains or auto socks on your car.
Other recommended gear for snowshoeing at Mount Rainier
- Trekking Poles
- Hand warmers
- Winter Coat
- Base Layers
- Winter Hiking Pants
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Thanks for reading! Please let me know any comments or questions you have!