Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Driving and Camping Mt. Rainier This Winter

For more than a century, magnificent Mt. Rainier National Park has been a sanctuary and recreation paradise every day of the year. Winter is a splendid time to visit the park and those of us with RVs have the chance to experience a snowy wonderland and great recreational opportunities. It’s important to be prepared for a winter stay in the park, from a well-equipped vehicle, including the mandatory tire chains, to proper outdoor clothing.

This winter, some new changes—reflecting budget cuts—were implemented that will continue through March. Visitors, day-tripping RVers, and overnight campers should take note:

• Nisqually (in the SW corner of the park, and gateway to Paradise) is the only point at which vehicles may access the park in winter.  

• The road between Longmire and Paradise will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays—days when the park receives its fewest number of visitors in the winter.

• While camping in the park is available at Longmire, Narada Falls, and Paradise year-round, the gate at Longmire closes at 5 p.m. for the night for plowing and road safety. If you are planning to camp overnight on a Monday, be aware that because of the road closures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you won’t be able to drive back to Longmire until Thursday. If the weather makes passage impossible on Thursday, the road may also be closed until the plows can maneuver the area. In other words, have enough supplies on hand to weather the weather.

• Thursdays through Mondays, the road will be plowed as early as possible (often by 7 a.m. if the conditions are good). Check radio station 610 AM for announcements.

• The Visitor Center at Longmire has moved across the street for the winter, in the historic Administration Building—another cost-saving measure. Park Rangers will be there seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 4:30. There are lots of great opportunities to hike and snowshoe with a Ranger. At Paradise, the Jackson Visitor Center is open on weekends through March. 

• Road closures for the winter: Highways 123 and 410; the Stevens Canyon, White River, and Mowich Lake Roads; and Sunrise. They all, however, remain open for recreation.  

• For up to the minute road and weather, call: 360-569-2211

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