The calendar says winter doesn’t officially start until Dec. 21, but Mount Rainier National Park workers are preparing for it now.
The park’s annual winterization of seasonal areas such as Sunrise, White River, Ohanapecosh and Box Canyon is underway. While parts of the park are open year-round, others have closed for the season, and some vehicle restrictions will start soon in a nod to approaching winter conditions.
State Routes 123 and 410 are still open, allowing visitors to see the fall colors. Stevens Canyon Road is closed to through traffic because of ongoing road construction work, but visitors can still access Backbone Ridge, Box Canyon and adjacent trailheads via the east entrance near SR-123. Wonderland Trail hikers, as well as day hikers, can pass through the construction zone to adjacent trails, park officials said.
On the Paradise side, the road is closed from just east of the intersection with the Paradise Valley Road to the east end of the tunnel at Box Canyon.
Closures of park areas that took effect Oct. 8 include the Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh campgrounds. Also closed are the White River campground, the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and the Longmire and White River Wilderness Information Centers.
The road to Sunrise is now closed to vehicle traffic at the White River campground gate. But bicyclists and hikers will be allowed to use the road unless otherwise posted, officials said. All facilities at Sunrise, except for a vault toilet, also are shut down.
At Paradise, the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and the Paradise Camp Deli and Gift Shop have transitioned to their winter schedule, opening on weekends and holidays only. Visitor center hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Paradise Inn closed for the season on Oct. 1.
At lower-elevation Longmire, the National Park Inn, the general store and the museum are open daily, as they are throughout the year. Reservations at the inn can be made at 360-569-2275 and www.mtrainierguestservices.com.
Starting Nov. 1, all vehicles entering the park, including ones with four-wheel and all-wheel-drive, will be required to carry tire chains. Park officials note that weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains this time of the year, so visitors should be prepared for inclement weather, including ice
and snow. Updated park information is available at www.nps.gov/mora and 360-569-2211.
While much of the park is hunkering down, most nearby businesses remain open throughout the fall and winter. Online information on visitor services, accommodations and activities is available at www.visitrainier.com, www.mt-rainier.com, www.staycrystal.com, www.destinationpackwood.com and www.minerallake.com.