Winter at Mount Rainier
The mountain's landscape undergoes a dramatic transformation in winter. Its colorful subalpine meadows and lush old growth forests are draped with a thick blanket of snow for much of the year. The sometimes dusty appearing glaciers are freshly covered in white and the snow-covered roofs of the rustic historic buildings are rimmed with icicles, creating a picture perfect setting.
Ever wonder how Mount Rainier's plants and animals spend the challenging winter months and cope with heavy snows and chilling winds? How do they survive the long winter to reproduce, gather food and store energy in the mountain's short snow-free season? Learn about Mount Rainier's winter ecology by taking a snowshoe walk with a ranger and viewing the Jackson Visitor Center exhibits and film. Warm up in the visitor center while enjoying the snowy view from the great hall, having lunch, or browsing in the gift shop.
The snow play area is open for sledding when enough snow is on the ground to protect vegetation at Paradise. Other activities at Paradise include crosscounty skiing, winter camping, and snowboarding.
Most of Mount Rainier's roads are closed for winter. The road from Nisqually Entrance to Longmire is open year-round, but may close during extreme weather. The road between Longmire and Paradise closes nightly in winter and reopens in the morning once the road has been plowed. Icy or snowy roads, poor visibility due to weather, and the chance of wildlife along roads can make winter travel challenging. Learn more about how to travel to Mount Rainier during winter.
Prepare & Take Care
Mount Rainier offers excellent opportunities for exploration and adventure, but sometimes people get lost, injured, or worse. Reduce your risk by following these simple guidelines:
Dress Warmly & Stay Dry
Pay Attention to the Weather
When hiking, climbing, skiing, or snowboarding bring the Winter 10 Essentials listed on the Winter Safety page and know how to use them. In addition, obtain compass bearings to Camp Muir or other off-trail destinations; carry an altimeter; wear rain- and wind-resistant clothing; and take a whistle, a "space blanket", and a snow shovel.
If you are not truly knowledgeable and prepared, or if the weather is questionable, don't push your luck!
The snows of winter concentrate wildlife where life is easier- where shallow snow provides easier travel and access to food. Parking areas and roadways are efficient travel corridors for deer and foxes, and deer may find the most available forage along roadways. Many visitors feed wildlife to get a better photograph and some mistakenly think that it helps the animals through the winter months. But this brings wildlife closer to vehicles and people, often with dire consequences. Animals attracted to these busy areas are often injured or killed by vehicles. The feeding of wildlife, an especially significant problem at Paradise, poses a threat to wildlife by increasing the risk of disease transmission (among themselves and to you), unnaturally increasing populations which may prey on other species (jays feed on eggs and nestlings of other songbirds), and causing digestive problems (their systems are adapted for natural foods, not cheese crackers).
Please keep your food away from wildlife. Pick up food particles and don't leave your lunch on your bumper- a fox or jay will find it. And lastly, please don't feed the wildlife- it's bad for them, and it's bad for you- feeding wildlife is illegal and you may be fined. Learn more about how to Keep Wildlife Wild.
Last updated: November 16, 2018