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Snowshoe Your Way Thru Mount Rainier National Park


A quiet afternoon showshoeing through beautiful Mount Rainier National Park.

A quiet afternoon showshoeing through beautiful Mount Rainier National Park.

© TroyMason via Flickr

Native Americans referred to Mount Rainier as Tahoma, which means "the great mountain." That term is almost an understatement.

With a summit over 16,000 feet, Mount Rainier is actually one of the nation's most stunning active volcanoes. Born more than half a million years ago, it was created layer by layer from lava and ash. As it grew, 25 major glaciers carved beautiful valleys, and have formed the largest collection of permanent ice on a single U.S. peak.

Though it is Mount Rainier National Park's centerpiece, it is in no way the only attraction. This year-round park offers beautiful falls and wildflowers in the summer, but the winter boasts the best attractions. And one of the best ways to get around the sites is snowshoeing.

With more than 16 trails perfect for snowshoeing, it is easy to be intimidated. But have no fear. One massive trail offers options for everyone. So grab your wool socks, parka, and snowshoes, and get ready for a day hike that's unforgettable.

Called Paradise for a Reason:

The Paradise Area is one huge trail meaning one massive blanket of snow. And it is your best option for a day of beautiful scenery, amazing sites, and even a fabulous workout. Snoeshoe'ers have many options for difficulty and can choose to tackle one, many, or all trails in one day. Bonus: Worried about spending all day away from amenities? Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by year-round heated restrooms.

What to Wear:

  • Base layer (long underwear)
  • Insulating layer (fleece or insulating long sleeve top or vest)
  • Outer layer (waterproof, breathable jacket or shell)
  • Hat
  • Waterproof gloves

Items to Bring:

  • Snowshoes
  • Waterproof boots
  • Warm socks
  • Gaiters
  • Snowshoeing poles (optional, but highly suggested)
  • Backpack
  • Water (between one pint per hour and one quart per outing, per person)
  • Food
  • Trail map
  • Compass
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • First Aid kit
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Extra socks
  • Watch

Easy: Myrtle Falls:

  • Length/Time: .5 miles - 15 to 30 minutes
  • Trailhead Location: Intersects the Skyline Trail from the right near the Paradise Inn.

This trail boats striking views of Paradise Valley and Sluskin Falls across to Mazama Ridge as well as the icy Myrtle Falls flowing from Edith Creek

Mild: Nisqually Vista Loop:

  • Length/Time: 1.2 mile loop - 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Trailhead Location: Behind the Jackson Visitor Center

From this trail you can view the snout of the four mile Nisqually Glacier. This loop is recommended to those looking to get acclimated to the environment and elevation.

Moderate: Skyline Trail:

  • Length/Time: 5.5 miles - 3 to 4 hours
  • Trailhead Location: At Paradise

As the main trail at Paradise, Skyline offers panoramic views of Mount Rainier, the Tatoosh Range, the Nisqually River Valley, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. It can be used by those who want to continue onto Camp Muir or the Summit of Mount Rainier. This is a moderate hike but the uphill 1,400 foot elevation is worth it. Enjoy views of frozen waterfalls, glaciers, and radiant snowfields. Skyline also branches off into many alternate trails.

Strenuous: Camp Muir:

  • Length/Time: 9 miles - 6 to 8 hours
  • Trailhead Location: At Paradise

To reach Camp Muir, you must take the Skyline Trail 1.5 miles to Panorama Point. Next, take the Pebble Creek trail which is where the Muir Snowfield begins and you will ascend to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. Snowshoeing this magnificent trail gives stunning views of famous mountains such as Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and even Mount Jefferson in Central Oregon (so long as the weather is clear).

Snoeshoeing is one of the many activities visitors can choose from at Mount Rainier National Park. It is an ideal destination for families, campers, and anyone seeking adventure.

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