Did you know that Mount Rainier is one of the snowiest places on earth? Jon and I visited in April – a new National Park for both of us!
At the beginning of National Parks week, when the parks have their fee-free day, Jon and I decided to make a weekend trip down to Mount Rainier National Park. We didn’t plan for our trip to coincide with fee-free day, as we have a National Parks pass, but it just happened to be Jon’s weekend off and we wanted to make the most of it. We got up really early – 5:15 am, and were on the road at 6:30. Driving was easy and we reached the park just after 10 am.
We went in the southwest entrance of the park and passed by the National Park Inn in the Longmire Historic District – that’s where we would be staying the night. We decided to first go to the Paradise section – so we made our way up the Paradise Road. It is a really gorgeous drive, past bridges and waterfalls and old-growth forest.
We parked at Paradise and went to the Visitor’s Center to figure out what we wanted to do. There was still a covering of snow on the trails, so we decided to rent snowshoes! For $14.50 per person, you can rent snowshoes for the day – they aren’t particular pretty, made of blue plastic and rubber straps, but they do the trick.
We talked to the ranger about a couple of snowshoe trail options and headed out. The snowshoes took a little getting used to; you have to walk with your feet farther apart than you normally would and of course, you have to pick up your feet higher, as you are walking on snow. All in all though, they were easy to use and we found walking in the snow was much easier for us than others without snowshoes.
The first trail we did (about a mile round trip) was the Nisqually Vista Trail. In the summer, this is a 1.2 mile paved trail; half of it was closed when we were there, so it was a slightly shorter out and back hike.
The trail took us over a little bridge, along a small creek that was visible through the snow and out along a section of trail that had amazing views of the mountain and the Nisqually Glacier. We also had a view of the Nisqually River Valley. We loved the scenery!
After we finished the Nisqually Vista Trail trail, we decided we still wanted to do more snowshoeing. We decided to hike a bit out the Edith Creek Basin trail, which in the summer offers spectacular views of scenic meadows with wildflowers and crosses over one of Mount Rainier’s famous waterfalls, Myrtle Falls. The weather was beautiful, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 60s! It was crazy for April in Washington State!
We went about a mile out, crossing over the bridge over Myrtle Falls and heading a little higher up the mountain. Many snowshoers and cross country skiers go much further to Panorama Point, but we stopped and turned around for a couple of reasons. This late in the season, we would be heading into a section that has a high risk of avalanches. The spring weather with the melting snow makes the heavy, slushy snow that is well known for sliding down the mountain, and we didn’t want to be anywhere near it!
After we made our way back to the Visitor’s Center, we decided 3 miles was enough snowshoeing for the day, because we wanted to do some hiking as well! We had a great time snowshoeing and would definitely do it again! Plus, I want to return and see Myrtle Falls and the wildflowers in summer!
After snowshoeing, we headed back down to a lower elevation to hike and check out some waterfalls! Have you been to Mount Rainier? Have you snowshoed at Paradise?