This year, Mount Rainier National Park policy will have a substantial impact on winter recreational opportunities. Park management has decided that the road between Longmire and Paradise will not open until 9 a.m., even in optimum conditions. The gate will be locked each evening at 5 p.m. This effectively curtails many recreational opportunities.
In years past on a nice, crisp sunny morning with no new snowfall, the diligent road crew would often have the road ready to go and the gate open by 6 or 7 in the morning. I hike and snowshoe extensively every winter and can tell you the early morning hours at Paradise are phenomenal. Heading uphill at that time, I am seldom alone. The Camp Muir route is very popular with the snowshoe and skiing group, but unfortunately will be impractical for many of us. Under the current time schedule, by the time you drive to Paradise and gear up, you will be lucky to head out by 10 a.m. Very fit young people may make Muir in less than four hours, but for most that is a pretty quick time for the winter trek. If you take a half-hour break for a snack or lunch, that only leaves two and a half hours to get back down, remove your gear and make a mad dash for the Longmire gate.
There are many other equally scenic winter trips that will now be impossible to complete in the limited time frame. I appeal to everyone who enjoys the upper mountain in the winter to contact Mount Rainier National Park (360-569-2211) and voice your displeasure at this new restrictive time policy.