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Snowshoeing at Mount Rainier – Affordable Family Hike during the Winter & Spring Season.

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Snowshoeing at Mt Rainier - Tips on Where to Find Snowshoes, What to Bring & more

Originally published in 2014 – updated for 2017

This winter season is the perfect time to experience the beauty of winter at Mt Rainier from different vantage points which is most easily accessible by snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is not only a winter sport either, as the snow at Mt Rainier starts in the fall and lasts well into the spring, too.

Snowshoeing is an affordable sport as we found out and the great thing is that there are so many places you could go snowshoeing, which opens up a whole other world that you wouldn’t normally be able to experience and see in the winter time without a way to access this beauty.

Check out a variety of snowshoe trails on the Mt Rainier website for different skill levels & options of where to go.

Snowshoeing Fun at Mt Rainier

Even better, this was an enjoyable, fun family activity. We took our 6 & 8 year old daughters and they found the snowshoes very easy to use as they are quite short in length for kids & they didn’t feel like it was much harder than just walking along the hike.  As you can see…one of our daughters liked it more than the other (this was about 2 minutes into our hike). :) But once she got going, she ended up really enjoying it too!

Mt Rainier Nisqually Vista View

View of the Nisqually Glacier area from the viewpoint

We snowshoed along the Nisqually Vista trail, which was the perfect length trail for our first time taking our girls snowshoeing (it was about a mile & a half round-trip). We started from the lower, overflow parking lot (before you get to Paradise) and then followed the trail out to a loop which provided some beautiful views of Mt Rainier & the valley below. I’d definitely recommend starting with this trail for a good starting point.

Sledding Fun at Mt Rainier

As a bonus, at the end of the trail, we happened to find a fun, little sledding hill that had been created. Even though there was no official sledding at Mt Rainier, all of us girls managed to get a little fun in on the hill sledding down the slick ice! Nice way to end our snowshoe adventure!

Where to Find Snowshoes:

Snowshoeing for Kids at Mt Rainier

  • Ask friends– you may be surprised to find out that friends have snowshoes they would let you borrow (this was the case for us – we found some friends who let us borrow their snowshoes, so we only needed to rent a pair for one of our girls).
  • Longmire General Store – Mt Rainier National Park rents out snowshoes if you decide you want to do this while you’re up there. This price is $10.50 for kids and $14 for adults now. However, you are taking a risk in renting them from Longmire as you aren’t guaranteed there will be enough snowshoes left to rent by the time you get there to rent them.
  • Whittaker’s Mountaineering Rentals – We just rented snowshoes recently here & they were $15 for adult rentals (I didn’t see any kids rentals, though). We got there around noon & they were all out until someone happened to bring  a pair in so these may be harder to find.
  • Sports Stores – I would call your local sports stores to see about renting snowshoes. We rented ours from Sports Authority (which is now out of business) but other options might be Dick’s Sporting Goods, Big 5, etc.
  • REI – The main REI in Seattle should rent snowshoes although I found that our local REI in Tacoma no longer rents them, so make sure to check with your  REI before you go.
  • Small, local stores – try calling around to smaller, local ski stores & outdoor stores to see if they rent snowshoes. We found several ski stores in Enumclaw that rented snowshoes in addition to ski rentals.
  • Buy Snowshoes – We actually bought our adult snowshoes at Costco a few years ago for an awesome price (about $50-$60) and I have seen them this winter at Costco for around that price, but you can also find them online at places like REI, LL Bean & more.

What to Bring with You:

Mountain Views from Mt Rainier Snowshoe Trip

  • Lightweight Backpack
  • Water bottles
  • Snacks
  • Water Resistant Boots – these can either be Snow Boots or Hiking Boots. Both our friends & us wore our hiking boots that were water resistant & we were just fine, but we weren’t hiking in deep snow either as it was pretty packed down. Our girls wore their snow boots which worked well for them. You’ll just want to make sure the boots are comfortable.
  • Layers of Clothing – I recommend dressing in layers as you just don’t know what the temperature could be like. We had brought plenty of warm clothing expecting it to be much colder up at Mt Rainier, but with the sun shining, it actually got quite warm, so we were thankful we’d dressed in layers. It’s recommended to stay away from cotton layers on the inner layers as they don’t wick away moisture as well.
  • Gloves – Even if it is warmer, you’re still hiking out in the snow, so I always suggest bringing or wearing thick gloves
  • Hat or Ear Covering
  • Sunscreen – Even in the winter, you can get too much sun, especially with the glare from the snow
  • Sunglasses  – The sun coming down on the snow can be blinding and cause quite a glare, so I’d definitely recommend bringing a pair of sunglasses with you just in case
  • Hand Warmers – These are good to have on hand for emergencies or if clothing gets wet.  The best price we’ve seen is at Costco for the large boxes, but you can also find these at places like Walmart or Target. Amazon also carries different size packs as well.
  • Flashlight – Always good to have on hand just in case

If you are planning on a longer hike, then you’ll want to bring more emergency preparedness items with you such as first aid kit, compass, knife or multi-tool, emergency “space”blanket and more.

Things to Know:

Mt Rainier during the winter

  • Check in with Longmire Information Center when you first arrive – I highly suggest checking in with the information center at Longmire when you get there as they will have the most up to date information for you on road conditions, trail conditions & best trails to use for what you’re looking for. They gave us a simple map & told us the best trails with kids and we had no problems finding the trail they told us about.
  • The road between Longmire (at the base near the entrance to the park) & Paradise is only open from 9am – 5pm during the winter season. You must be down to Longmire by 5pm, so they do require you to leave Paradise by 4:30 pm & they are strict with these time limits. Make sure you plan accordingly with your snowshoe hike to be back to your car before 4:30, so you can head down the mountain in time (it takes a good 25 minutes to get down the mountain).
  • You are required to carry chains in your vehicle to drive up to Paradise at Mt Rainier.{if you have AWD or 4WD you may not be required, check their Twitter feed for updates} They will ask you at the gate if you have chains in your vehicle. If you do not have chains, Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashland does have chain rentals if you need them.
  • Pack a lunch. There are limited areas to eat in Mt Rainier, so I’d recommend packing a lunch to bring with you. The Jackson Visitor Center up at Paradise does have a snack area but it’s open only 11 am- 4:00 (another part of their website said 10 – 4:15 pm so you might want to call & check on that)  on weekends in the winter. If you want to stop somewhere to eat for dinner, there are restaurants in Ashland once you head out of the park or the National Park Inn in Longmire also has a restaurant.
  • Jackson Visitor Center is only open on the weekends. As I mentioned above, the Visitor Center at Paradise is only open on weekends, so if you’re headed there during the week, definitely make sure to check in with the Longmire Info Center, so you can get that updated map & trail condition info.

Ranger -Led Snowshoe Walks at Mt Rainier::

Ranger Led Snowshoe Tour at Mt Rainier

A great way to learn how to use snowshoes as well as learn about the trails & more information about the area is through a Ranger Led Snowshoe Walk at Mt Rainier.  We did not participate in a ranger walk as my younger daughter was too young, but we did come upon a ranger walk on our hike & saw how informative and helpful it was if you wanted to learn more about the area in the winter. You can also find out more information about Ranger Snowshoe Walks on this Mt Rainier site as well.  They have just started Ranger-Led snowshoe hikes at Mt Rainier for the 2016-2017 winter season.

Details:

  • Offered daily on Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays at 11 am & 1:30pm – these are now open as of 12/23/17 & thru 3/25/18 (weather-permitting)
  • Sign-Ups begin 1 hour in Advance & they can fill up (it was a large group of about 30 people when we went in late January)
  • Meet inside the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise near the information desk
  • The walks will take about 2 hrs & cover 1.8 miles
  • Ages 8 & up
  • Snowshoe rentals are provided by Mt Rainier – they do ask for a $5 donation for the snowshoe rentals

It looks like you can also now request a group snowshoe tour starting January 6th – make sure to reserve those ahead of time during the same timeframe as the public snowshoe walks.

More Places to Snowshoe:

  • Hurricane Ridge – Olympic National Park (outside of Port Angeles) – This would be a great place to snowshoe as there are just breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains from this spot & it’s very open & lots of flat spots as well as some hills too if you want to try that.  They also have Ranger-Led Snowshoe Tours. However, there is not enough snow this year, but a great option for another year.
  • Crystal Mountain Resort – This is a guided snowshoe tour complete with a chair lift ride, snowshoe rental, guided snowshoe tour and ending with a cheese fondue dinner plus salad & dessert. This does cost $50 but what a fun date idea that sounds like if you’ve never been snowshoeing & want to try it out. {This is not available this year in 2015, though, due to the lack of snow, but something to plan for next year.}
  • Snoqualmie Pass – This is most likely not an option this year due to lack of snow in the area, but something to keep in mind for next year as there are a number of places you can snow shoe in this area.
  • Stevens Pass – You can snowshoe around the pass as well as in areas leading up to the pass area around Skykomish to Stevens Pass.
  • Mt Baker
  • Lake Chelan 

Have you ever been snowshoeing? Any other tips for us or fun locations you’ve going snowshoeing at?

 

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3 Comments

    1. I think you guys would really enjoy it, Kimberly. Such a fun way to explore new places you wouldn’t normally go in the winter.

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