Backcountry

Backcountry Skiing and Boarding at Mount Rainier National Park

Backcountry Skiing and Boarding at Mount Rainier National Park, what to know before you go.

A summary of the frequently asked questions for visitors seeking to ski and board the backcountry of “America’s Everest”, Mount Rainier. People have been skiing Mount Rainier since the early 1900s. With planning and prep, you can have a great time and safely earn your turns.

Where do you go backcountry skiing at Mount Rainier National Park? 

Park in the parking lot by the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park. Hike up to Camp Muir (10,080-feet elevation) to ski down the Muir snowfields, Panorama Point and then gently back to the parking lot. 

Why go backcountry skiing at Mount Rainier National Park? 

Backcountry Skiing at Mount Rainier
Backcountry Skiing at Mount Rainier Photo Courtesy IG User @mksmalleyart

For the thrill seeker that wants to test their skills outside of the confines of a ski resort, Mount Rainier National Park offers a less traveled winter experience for splitboarders and alpine skiers. The hike from visitor center ascends 4,600 feet over 4.5 miles on the mountain’s southeast side. Visitors will trek past scenic lookouts like Panaroma Point with views of the Tatoosh Mountains to the south, and an epic view of Mount Rainier.  After hiking up to Camp Muir skiing or boarding down the broad Muir snowfield puts you right back at your starting point at Paradise. Experience this incredible area, one of the most popular ski mountaineering areas in the Cascades. Join the ranks of those mountaineers that can say they carved some turns on a volcano! 

When to go? 

There is snow at higher elevations year-round, however, the best conditions for backcountry skiing occur mid-November thru mid-April. Visitors have a short daily window for skiing the snowfield. When conditions permit the gate at Longmire that allows visitors to drive up to Paradise is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. During the winter season when conditions can change rapidly, the gate opening time can be delayed for a few hours to allow for snow removal on the road up to Paradise. The gate at Longmire closes at 5:00 PM or earlier depending on weather conditions. Check the park’s Twitter feed for gate opening times before you head out to the park and check-in with the park rangers upon entering the park regarding the current status for gate closures. Be sure to plan your return accordingly, the gate closure time is strictly enforced for visitor safety. If you arrive at the gate at Longmire after it has officially closed you may be asked by a park ranger to show license, registration, proof of insurance and face a fine. 

What to pack?

  • Visitors should be prepared for winter conditions and fast-changing weather. 
  • All vehicles are required to carry chains when entering the park November thru May. Whittaker Mountaineering and the gas station in Ashford both have chains to rent. 
  • Pack the 10-Essentials
  • Ski crampons
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • Skis/splitboard
  • Skins
  • Sunscreen
  • Plenty of water

How to be responsible when backcountry skiing at Mount Rainier National Park? 

  1. Always check conditions before you head out. Avalanches are a very real concern. Visitors skiing the Camp Muir snowfields do so at their own risk. The Northwest Avalanche Center and the Mount Rainier Recreational Center both update winter trail conditions are throughout the season. Visitors are strongly encouraged to stay informed on current conditions. If there is no specific report, conditions are unknown. 
  2. Avoid skiing on land with less than five feet of snow in order to protect fragile ecosystems and avoid damaging delicate vegetation.
  3. Know your skill level, remember the backcountry is not a frequently patrolled area. You need to be in proper physical condition to tackle the elevation, hike, and winter conditions. The Muir Snowfield is best suited for those comfortable skiing and boarding intermediate runs. 
  4. Pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trace other than tracks in the snow.
  5. For extended trips, a wilderness camping permit is required year-round. 

Need to rent gear?

  • Rent split-boards and avalanche safety equipment at Rainier Mountain Sportz located at 54010 Mountain HWY E., Elbe, Washington 98330
  • If you need to rent chains for your car, or snowshoes and winter apparel check-in with the team at Whittaker Mountaineering

Where to stay in overnight accommodations?

  • National Park Inn located at Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park
  • To choose from over 50 cabins, inns and lodges outside of the park’s entrance in Ashford, Washington click here

Who to contact for more information?