Winter Visits to Rainier | What to Know Before You Go - Visit Rainier
Mount Rainier covered with snow in the Winter

Winter Visits to Rainier | What to Know Before You Go

Winter at Mount Rainier is stunningly beautiful and offers many recreational opportunities for the prepared visitor. 

A little bit of pre-planning can help visitors have a fun and safe visit this winter. In this article, we share answers to frequently asked questions and travel tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable visit this winter.

Q: What should I do before I decide to visit Mount Rainier National Park?  

A: First, check the day’s weather forecast for Mount Rainier National Park. Pro-Tip, do not rely on general weather forecasts for the surrounding towns. Paradise is a high-elevation location where the weather changes rapidly. Visitors will encounter increasing wind, snow, and ice the further up the mountain they drive.  Be prepared with appropriate clothing, food, water, and supplies. Second, check the webcams to see what conditions currently look like before you leave. Third, check the park’s Twitter feed for road and gate updates and projections – visit @MountRainierNPS. 


Q: Which entrance should I use? Where can I enter Mount Rainier National Park during the winter?  

A: The Southwest Entrance, the Nisqually Entrance is open year-round. Looking for an address to put into your GPS? Use this one 39000 State Route 706 E. Ashford, WA 98304. 

Q: How early or late can I enter the park? 

A: During COVID Mount Rainier National Park isn’t publishing daily operating schedules for the various park entrances as staffing levels can change from day to day. If you’re planning to arrive early or late in the day purchase a pass in advance this way if you arrive at the entrance gate and find it isn’t staffed you can enter the park anyway and display your pass in your vehicle. Click here to purchase a pass online.

Q: Can I buy a pass on arrival? 

A: Yes, you can as long as you arrive when the entrance is staffed. See above. You’ll want to have a credit or debit card as during COVID the park is requesting to not accept cash. 

Q: What’s open this winter? 

At Longmire, the National Park Inn is open for lodging and to-go dining. The General Store is open and will rent snowshoes while supplies last. All facilities need to enforce capacity guidance. Please keep in mind that only a limited number of people will be permitted in the Longmire retail area at one time. There may be a line of people waiting to shop at the gift shop at Longmire during peak weekends. 

At Paradise, the visitor center will remain closed. On weekends there will be an outdoor information station by the visitor center with a staff person to answer intermittent questions throughout the day. The restrooms at Paradise will be open but they are not heated. You’ll want to be dressed and prepared for the weather and conditions. There is no place to warm-up or seek shelter at Paradise other than your vehicle. There is no food service at Paradise this winter. Visitors should bring their own refreshments or purchase them at Longmire before the drive up to Paradise. Visitors should be prepared with clothing, equipment, food, and water that will sustain them throughout their visit. 

Q: What should I bring on my hike or snowshoe trek?

A: The 10 Essentials are more important than ever! We encourage visitors to plan ahead and refer to the winter safety information available on the park’s website for information before they come.


Q: Will the snowplay area at Paradise open for sledding this winter?

A: The Paradise snowplay/sledding area will not open until public health guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic are met and there is sufficient snow coverage.


Q: Do I really need chains? Even if I have an SUV or a 4WD Subaru? 

A: Yes, all visitors need to be prepared for winter driving.  All vehicles must carry tire chains starting November 1, and visitors should be familiar with how to install chains or traction devices on their vehicles. To read more about the tire chain requirement at Mount Rainier National Park click here.

Q: When does the gate at Longmire open? 

A: The gate at Longmire which opens the road to Paradise may open and close at different times each day according to weather and safety conditions.  People can drive up to Paradise when the gate is unlocked for uphill travel; typically between 9 AM and 4 PM.  For the most recent updates to roads and park access, visitors should access the park’s Twitter feed @MountRainierNPS.  


Q: When should I plan to leave Paradise for the day? 

A: Visitors should plan to start driving downhill from Paradise no later than 4:30 PM (the gate is locked no later than 5 PM daily).  During inclement weather; the gate could close earlier.  Visitors should actively monitor weather conditions during their visit and be prepared to return to their vehicles if conditions deteriorate.  Ask a park ranger if you have questions about the day’s proposed schedule. 

Q: Where can I stay overnight? 

A: The National Park Inn located in the historic Longmire District is open for lodging. Cabins, lodges, inns, and vacation rentals are found near the park’s entrance in Ashford, click here for a list of properties.


Q: Which restaurants near the park are open in the winter? 

A: In Ashford, the Copper Creek Inn and the Paradise Village Restaurant and Bakery are both open daily. Hours may vary. In Elbe, the Mt. Rainier Dining Company and the Elbe Bar & Grill both operate year-round.


Q: What’s the schedule for the ranger-led snowshoe walks at Paradise?

A: The ranger-led snowshoe walks are canceled for this winter. If you’re new to snowshoeing on your own you may want to brush up on additional winter safety tips. 

Q: What’s a good resource for checking the weather and conditions at Paradise? 

A: Here are helpful places to check.


Q: How much snow is at Paradise? 

A: The Northwest Avalanche Center tracks snow depth at a variety of places in the Pacific Northwest including Paradise. Click here to visit their website. 
Additional friendly reminders, dogs (except service dogs) are not permitted outside of parking lots; visitors should leave their pets at home. Drones are not permitted within park boundaries.  Leave your drone at home. If you’re reading this thanks for staying with us to the very end of this article. We appreciate your interest in the Mount Rainier area. If you have any additional questions please use our live chat function on our website or reach out to us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We love hearing from you and seeing your photos and videos from the mountain. 

Nisqually Entrance of Mt Rainier National Park Winter