Winter at Mount Rainier

Footprints wander through a snow-covered meadow.
Snowshoe tracks meander through the snow-covered meadows of Paradise.

NPS Photo

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.

Rustic building with snow covered roof framed by conifer trees.
The historic Administrative Building, part of the National Historic Landmark District at Longmire.

NPS Photo

Winter Recreation

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 film. In Longmire, warm up in the National Park Inn while enjoying the snowy view from the deck, have lunch, or browse for gifts in the general store.

Other winter activities in the park include snowshoeing, crosscountry skiing, winter camping, and snowboarding. Discover more things to do in winter.

Winter Travel

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 is open on weekends and closes nightly. It 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.

Tire tracks crisscross on a snowy road.
Snow and ice can make driving more hazardous in winter. Take care when traveling in winter.

NPS Photo

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
Cold temperatures, wet snow, and wind can easily rob you of body heat. To avoid hypothermia and frostbite, dress warmly and stay dry. Wear layers of wool or synthetics like pile and polypropylene under a waterproof shell. Avoid exposure to wind. Snack frequently, drink lots of water, and take warm-up breaks indoors.

Pay Attention to the Weather
It's easy to get lost or fall when the weather turns bad. The trail can quickly cover with snow, or thick fog can blanket your route. You need to know where you are and how to get to safety. You also need to know how to assess avalanche hazards to minimize potential risk.

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.

Take Care
Tell someone your travel plans so they can notify the park if you fail to return. Do not travel alone or in poor visibility. If you are not truly knowledgeable and prepared, or if the weather is questionable, don't push your luck!

Gray Jay
Canada (Gray) Jays are sometimes called camp-robbers because of their habit of begging for food around campsites. Jays are well-adapted to cold and are a common sight around Mount Rainier during the winter.

NPS Photo

Winter Wildlife

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.


Things to do in Winter

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    Last updated: December 1, 2022

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