If snow is your thing, Mount Rainier National Park has it.
Park officials said the snowplay area at Paradise is generally open through mid-March, depending on snow levels and conditions. Sledding and sliding are permitted only in the designated area. Trees, tree wells and cliffs make other areas dangerous, officials said.
Sledders are asked to use soft devices – flexible sleds, inner tubes, and saucers. Hard toboggans or runner sleds aren’t allowed.
Here’s what else to know:
• Check the status of road and avalanche conditions before leaving home. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park in winter. With snow, Mount Rainier’s beauty changes and so do its challenges. Visitors planning to travel to the park in winter should familiarize themselves with winter travel tips and be prepared for potential winter hazards. For any questions on winter activities and snow conditions, contact the Longmire Information Center at 360-569-6575.
• Join a park ranger to learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how plants, animals and people adapt to the challenging winter conditions at Mount Rainier. The guided snowshoe walks are scheduled through March 31 – conditions permitting – on Saturdays and Sundays. They start at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. after participants meeet at the Jackson Visitor Center (near the information desk). They cover approximately 1.5 miles in two hours and are limited to 25 people, 8 years old or older, on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, or to make reservations for a group snowshoe walk, call (360) 569-6575.Snowshoes are provided by the park only for those attending the ranger-guided walks, and only for the duration of the walk. A $4 donation from each participant helps the park pay for the program and repair and replace snowshoes. Additionally, the park concession rents snowshoes. Park officials advise checking at the Longmire general store for availability and rental rates. Or you may use your own snowshoes. Other must-have items for snowshoeing include a hat, mittens, suitable boots (you will sink into the snow even wearing snowshoes), sunscreen and sunglasses.
• Skiing and snowboarding: To avoid damaging exposed vegetation, a minimum of five feet of snow is strongly advised for skiing and snowboarding. Such information is available at the Jackson Visitor Center (weekends and holidays) and the Longmire Information Center (daily).
Snowmobiling: In the southwest corner of the park, snowmobiles are permitted for 6.5 miles along the Westside Road from its junction with the main park road as far as Round Pass. Beyond Round Pass, the Westside Road is closed to snowmobile use. Snowmobiles are also permitted on all the road loops of Cougar Rock Campground. The campground is closed to overnight use during winter and the roadway is left unplowed. Contact a park ranger at the Longmire Information Center for maps and additional snowmobile information.
On the north side of the park, no ranger station is open in the winter. The US Forest Service District Office in Enumclaw provides information and maps for White River, Carbon River, and Mowich Lake areas. For more information, call the USFS District Office in Enumclaw at (360) 825-6585. Highway 410 is closed near its junction with Crystal Mountain Ski Area road, at the north park boundary.
Snowmobiles are permitted on the 12-mile section of unplowed road from the north park boundary on Highway 410 to the White River Campground. Snowmobiles may not continue on Hwy 410 south of the White River Road turnoff. They are also prohibited from proceeding beyond the closure at the White River Campground road junction towards Sunrise. Snowmobiles must stay on the road corridor; they are not allowed to proceed beyond the campground towards Glacier Basin. Be aware of avalanche danger and the weather forecast.