Facilities at Mount Rainier National Park Slow to Open Due to Heavy Snowpack

You can add Mount Rainier National Park to the growing list of Western parks where this past winter's heavy snowfall is pushing back the openings of campgrounds and even some roads.

Park officials say that due to record low-elevation snowfall many areas of the park that would normally open in May and June will be delayed by several weeks.

Paradise, at an elevation of 5,400 feet, received 898 inches of snow so far this winter, and there is still more than 15 feet of snow on the ground. At Longmire just inside the Nisqually Entrance, 27 inches of snow still lingers.

The heavy snow load, unusual low-elevation snow, and need to continue daily snow removal operations throughout April all impacted the park’s ability to begin the process of spring road opening. The Stevens Canyon Road connecting the east and west sides of the park most likely will open in mid-June. The target public opening for the Sunrise Road is July 3.

Opening of State Route 410 and State Route 123 from the north park boundary south to U.S. 12 is tentatively scheduled for early next week. No opening date has been announced by the Washington State Department of Transportation for State Route 410 east over Chinook Pass.

“We haven’t had snow this late this low in decades” said Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “We recommend that you check the park’s website or call the park (360-569-2211, ext. 2334) for current information on road and facility status before heading for Mount Rainier.”

Some campgrounds that would normally be snow-free by Memorial Day are still under snow. Although Ohanapecosh Campground will open as scheduled on May 23, Cougar Rock Campground will not open until June 6. The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center will open June 13.

Hikers should anticipate 100 percent snow cover on all trails above 3,000 feet. The trail melt-out will be late this year, and backpackers planning trips on the Wonderland Trail should anticipate a lot of travel on snow throughout July.

While the snow is affecting trails and campgrounds, the Paradise Inn is open, as is the National Park Inn located at Longmire. For reservations at either Paradise Inn or the National Park Inn call 360-569-2275.

Businesses in the gateway communities surrounding the park are open and anxious for the summer season to begin. Websites for gateway community information can be found here, here and here.