Though the weather might not seem wintry just yet, fading fall colors, end of seasonal employment, and the need to get ready for the coming winter has these units of the National Park System winding down their summer/fall seasons.
Mount Rainier National Park
At Mount Rainier in Washington state, the staff says fall colors at the higher elevations are probably at their peak right now and continuing for the next week or two, weather permitting. The Paradise area, Reflection Lakes, Bench and Snow Lakes "are showing outstanding colors," according to the Paradise Visitor Center staff. The Sunrise area is also reporting a good color display as well as the Grove of the Patriarchs and Silver Falls Trails in the Ohanapecosh area, the park reports.
Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga advises that this coming weekend -- October 9, 10 & 11 -- will be the last weekend for car camping in Mount Rainier for this season. After that date, Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh Campgrounds will close and park staff will begin winterizing facilities. White River Campground, on the park’s northeast corner closed for camping on October 3.
Other facilities in Mount Rainier closing after October 11 include the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and the Longmire and White River Wilderness Information Centers. After October 11, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center will change to its winter operation schedule of weekends and holidays only. Hours of operation will be 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The snack bar and gift shop in the visitor center will operate from 11:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. during this time.
Paradise Inn closed October 4 for the 2010 season.
At Longmire, the National Park Inn and General Store are open daily year round, as well as the Longmire Museum, which provides visitor information, exhibits and book sales.
The road between Nisqually Entrance and Longmire remains open throughout the winter except during extreme weather. The road between Longmire and Paradise will close nightly beginning November 1 and reopen each morning or when snow removal operations are completed.
Closure of State Routes 123 and 410 are weather dependent. Call 1-800-695-ROAD for current status. Visitors should check the park’s website www.nps.gov/mora for current conditions and closures before traveling to the park, or call 360-569-2211 for recorded information.
Most facilities in the gateway communities surrounding the park remain open daily. Information on these businesses is available on the internet at www.mt-rainier.com, www.visitrainier.com, www.desitnationpackwood.com or www.minerallake.com
Cedar Breaks National Monument
With fall colors on the declining in the upper elevations of Cedar Breaks in Utah, the park is transitioning over to the winter recreational season.
“The Columbus Day weekend is the last opportunity this fall to take advantage of ranger-conducted programs and the exhibits inside the Visitor Center,” says Superintendent Paul Roelandt. “After Monday, October 11, we will be winterizing the park’s utility systems and buildings which will be closed for visitor use until next spring.”
Because an earlier than usual snow storm developed, over the next few days visitors should expect cool days with high temperatures in the 50s. The views from the Cedar Breaks rim into the 2,500 foot-deep amphitheater should be spectacular. "Fall colors peeking through a winter wonderland of white should provide excellent views and photo opportunities for travelers," the park staff notes.
Until the Visitor Center closes, the entrance fee for Cedar Breaks is $4.00 per person, ages 17 and older. Admission is free for children ages 16 and under. The Visitor Center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. through October 11. In addition to the geology exhibits, a visit to the park’s Visitor Center will find a wide range of books, maps, and visual aids that provide in-depth information about the park, other National Park and forest sites, and the rest of the Colorado Plateau.
After the park officially closes for the season, the main park road will remain open for visitors to drive through the park free of charge until it is closed by the first major snow storm, normally in late November or early December. As the road closes to vehicular traffic and the snow deepens, the park will remain open throughout the winter for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on designated trails. Call the park at (435) 586-9451 for additional information.
Voyageurs National Park
The staff at Voyageurs also is slowly shuttering facilities. The park has closed the Kabetogama Lake and Ash River Visitor Centers for the season. Rainy Lake Visitor Center will remain open Wednesday – Sunday, October 1 – December 31, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and January 2 through mid-May 2011, 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
With the fall colors here, the National Park Service encourages Minnesota residents to go hiking on the park’s trails located near all three visitor centers. These trails offer great scenic views.
Voyageurs National Park will offer a program each Sunday from mid-January through March 2011. Watch for program announcements in the newspaper.