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The snow is melting

Get ready to explore Mount Rainier before the summer crowds

The beautiful view coming over Chinook Pass from Yakima. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Mount Rainier looms over Joint Base Lewis-McChord and just begs to be explored. Winter weather limits your options to explore, but now that spring is here and weather is warming up, Mount Rainier National Park roads will soon be opening up for the season.

At this time of year, weather conditions change rapidly, so make sure before you head out to the park visit for the status of park roads. Also visit twitter, @MountRainierNPS, for road updates and announcements. 

The Nisqually Entrance to Longmire and Longmire to Paradise roads are open. This is the most common entrance to the park. The gate at Longmire is no longer closed each day at 5 p.m., but this could change depending on weather conditions. At this time, you are still required to carry tire chains in your car.

Due to spring snow conditions and construction delays, June 11 is the estimated date for Cayuse and Chinook Pass to open for the season. This will allow a nice scenic drive from Yakima over the pass with some great views of Mount Rainier. Crystal Mountain Resort is located right near the gate for Chinook Pass and will open up beginning June 22 for summer gondola rides. If you go midweek, score a $2 military discount off ticket prices.

Stevens Canyon Road is estimated to open for the season May 25. This road allows you access to an old growth forest with many wonderful hikes. Waterfalls are particularly impressive with melting snow increasing their volume. Visit the Silver Falls Trail for a waterfall and the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail for 1,000-year-old Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedar.

Sunrise has the highest elevation in the park that you can access by road. It is estimated to open June 28. This is a beautiful section of the park and a great place to view a glacier.

Summer brings the crowds especially on the weekends. Often the Nisqually and White River entrances will be especially congested. Parking lots at Sunrise and Paradise, the two most popular areas in the park, can fill up by late morning. Here are some tips to avoid the crowds:

  • Visit on weekdays. If you go on weekends, plan to arrive early morning or late afternoon.
  • Have your annual park pass ready. These are free to military. Don't wait for a busy summer weekend to request at the gate thus slowing up the line.
  • Consider alternate destinations in the park if Sunrise and Paradise are crowded. Longer hikes are less crowded than the ones near the visitor's centers. 
  • Always check road and weather conditions, especially at this time of year when weather changes frequently.
  • Pack snacks and drinks or even lunch. Concessions in the park are limited and on more crowded days can be frustrating if you are hungry. 

One of the great joys of living in the Pacific Northwest is our beautiful National Parks and getting outside and enjoying them. So dig out your hiking boots and get ready for the season. 

(Estimated road dates are as of May 1 and subject to change)

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