Route Finding Skills Necessary on most backcountry trails.
Mount Rainier has received a significant amount of snow during the 2011/2012 winter season. Many early summer hikers are not prepared for the route finding challenges encountered by a late snowpack. History has shown that such heavy snowpack conditions significantly increase search and rescue incidents in the backcountry. Trails may be snow-free at lower elevations but hikers should anticipate heavy snow-covered trails higher up. Hikers should not count on following their footprints back out. Always carry a detailed map and compass, and/or GPS, and know how to use them.
Also consider the steep snow slopes, melt holes, thinning snow bridges, and other early season hazards that you may encounter, and be honest with yourself in assessing your skills and experience. In addition, having proper gear (adequate boots, ice axe, the ten essentials, etc.) is a must. Learn more about current trail conditions.
Before heading out into the backcountry, please visit or call one of the Wilderness Information Centers to get the most up-to-date conditions.