Forum Index > Trail Talk > Rainier Paradise travel questions-- please help!
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caseyboo13
Casey R.



Joined: 06 Feb 2019
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Location: Auburn, AL
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Casey R.
PostWed Feb 06, 2019 12:19 pm 
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Hi everyone,

This might be a weird request but here goes.

Myself and a friend of mine are visiting the Portland/Seattle area at the end of this month and plan on going to Mt. Rainier and doing the day hikes at Paradise on Fri March 1.

We will be using a rental car. We understand we must carry tire chains. We just are concerned about potentially causing damage to the car with the chains (should we be required to put them on the day we visit) but also, more importantly, we have 0 experience driving on snow or ice being from south Alabama.

So with all that being said, if anyone has any info on potential rideshares or shuttles up and down the road to Paradise that we could utilize please shoot them my way!!

(Also I've only visited Rainier once in the summer a couple years ago, so if anyone has good advice on what to wear/bring for a day hike this time of year please feel free to share that too!)

Thanks  smile.gif
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moonspots
Happy Curmudgeon



Joined: 03 Feb 2007
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Happy Curmudgeon
PostWed Feb 06, 2019 3:23 pm 
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caseyboo13 wrote:
but also, more importantly, we have 0 experience driving on snow or ice being from south Alabama.

Well, that's the biggest concern you might want to consider. The chains you'll want to use, or show to the rangers (if they ask) should probably be cable type to minimize any damage to a rental. Specifically ask about this when (or better yet, before) you rent your car.

You won't get much opportunity to practice driving on slippery roads until you get to the slippery roads, and by then you won't want to mis-read the road conditions, and/or not be able to deal with road conditions: you'll be up where you not likely be able to extricate yourself from a mistake.

So here's what you do: drive up toward MRNP, and as soon as you encounter frost/snow/ice on the road SLOW DOWN, and study the reaction of the car to the road conditions, and take it easy.

I wish I were going to be in the area then, I'd take you. But, I won't be.

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zephyr
aka friendly hiker



Joined: 21 Jun 2009
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Location: West Seattle
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aka friendly hiker
PostWed Feb 06, 2019 7:02 pm 
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caseyboo13 wrote:
Hi everyone,

This might be a weird request but here goes. 

Myself and a friend of mine are visiting the Portland/Seattle area at the end of this month and plan on going to Mt. Rainier and doing the day hikes at Paradise on Fri March 1.

...

caseyboo13 wrote:
(Also I've only visited Rainier once in the summer a couple years ago, so if anyone has good advice on what to wear/bring for a day hike this time of year please feel free to share that too!)

Thanks  smile.gif

Hi, caseyboo13,

This is not at all weird.  We get requests like this all the time.  You were resourceful to find this forum and smart to ask for advice.

You will probably want snowshoes to really get around and see things.  They can be rented at REI in various locations or from Whittaker Mountaineering down in Ashford near the entrance. 

Mt. Rainier can be mighty tricky with sudden cloud cover obscuring landmarks or even whiteout conditions.  It's highly recommended that you pay attention to the weather and carry a map and compass.  There are a number of good trip reports in this forum about hikes around Paradise.  Check those out for late February/early March time frame.  Here's one from later in March of Mazama Ridge near Paradise to give you an idea of how much snow there can be. 

The earlier you get started, the better.  It's a fairly long drive from Seattle and you will have to wait until the gate is opened at Longmire, then drive further to reach Paradise.  There's a lot to say.  Others will probably add more advice.  Winter on the mountain can be deadly.  So plan carefully and have realistic goals.  I hope you get a sunny clear day. 

Regards,   ~z
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thuja
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PostWed Feb 06, 2019 9:18 pm 
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There are no "hikes" at Paradise in winter (March included). You can get around on snowshoes or skis but most routes are not marked and under at least several feet of snow. You need a map, compass and ability to use them to navigate in the snow. Things look much different under several feet of snow than in the summer.

You will need a full set of winter clothing to be comfortable and safe in the snow: an insulating base layer, a warmer layer on top of that, and an outer shell. Bring at least 2 pairs of gloves and 2 different hats. Don't wear anything made of cotton.

You'll need snowshoes or skis of course.  These can be rented at REI, RMI in Ashford or the Jackson Visitor Center gift shop.

Winter is not to be taken lightly.

You will have about 6 hours at Paradise, assuming the road opens on time. You will have to leave Paradise by about 4:45 to clear the gate at Longmire by 5:30pm (exact closing time varies)

Also, if the weather and snow is bad enough you won't be able to drive any further than Longmire. Sometimes the trails there are snowfree, other times not.

Check in with a ranger at the information desk in Longmire or Paradise before you set  out.
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silence
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PostThu Feb 07, 2019 8:49 am 
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All great advice!

March 6, 2011, from Mazama Ridge looking at Paradise and Panorama Point (dead center)
Looking forward to breaking trail in some fresh powder soon!
Looking forward to breaking trail in some fresh powder soon!

Some winter trails are marked with poles and well traveled, most are not, but some of those are well travelled (even with trenches from heavy use esp around the Jackson VIC and heading up to Alta Vista). There are weekend ranger led snowshoes out to Nisqually Vista (shoes included with a $5 donation), or with your own you can head out there too. The unplowed Paradise Valley Rd is ez to follow and affords a scenic snowshoe, but depending on conditions ask the rangers how safe it is beyond the 4th Crossing junction where there is potential avy danger. The marked trail out of Narada Falls to Reflection Lake and back is a popular snowshoe with a views of the Rainier and the Tatoosh Range. No matter how safe it looks when you drive up, conditions can change quickly .... folks have gotten lost (esp in a whiteout) and even died (from an avalanche) around Paradise. So we almost always pack the same winter gear whether it's around Paradise and Reflection Lakes (if just for the conditioning), or further on to Pan Point and Camp Muir, up to Mazama Ridge and Skyline or beyond (all of which are not marked and require more experience). Here is the winter trails map ... it says Ski trails, but it's also for snowshoers
http://npmaps.com/wp-content/uploads/mount-rainier-paradise-winter-trails-map.gif

Ranger led snowshoe info page
https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/winter-recreation.htm#CP_JUMP_142395

This is a navigation map for winter travel at Paradise (we carry topo maps, compass and gps) ... with little or no experience, don't be tempted to follow the herd up to Panorama Point and beyond, or to venture very far off-trail. As you can see from this map you need a lot of experience and the proper winter gear (including extra food, plenty of fluids, a shovel, all layers of winter clothing including waterproof pants with some extras, a temporary shelter/bivy, sunscreen and sunglasses, gaiters, head lamps and more). Never underestimate the Mountain ... there's always a possibility of spending the night in the snow if you get lost in a whiteout or have an injury. Since presumably you haven't snowshoed remember that you will be carrying more gear on your back and more weight on your feet. It is estimated that a fit experienced snowshoer will go 25% slower than a hiker on bare ground under the best conditions (hard packed snow). So, donít be surprised if you are only hiking 1.5 to 2 mph on snowshoes and plan your trip accordingly.
http://npmaps.com/wp-content/uploads/mount-rainier-camp-muir-map.gif

Don't forget your boots

Don't snowshoe on ski tracks whenever possible (sometimes that may be the only option on steep and narrow terrain)

We have AWD and have never had to put on chains or even been inspected for them, but we carry them anyhow because they are required. You could rent an AWD, then stop at Whittakers for chains to be legal (they might be cheaper than at the rental place) and snowshoes/poles (call in advance to make sure they are available on that day). Or, you can take the chance of being turned back from where they are inspecting for chains (which could be at Longmire or further up) and requiring them on your front wheel drive or regular car tires (it would be because you don't have them and need them, even though they are required from the entrance) and just hike/snowshoe around Longmire (you can rent "basic" snowshoes there). I really don't know what happens if you don't have chains inside the park and are caught ... maybe they give you a ticket and tell you to leave immediately.

Longmire winter trails map
https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/upload/Longmire-Winter-Trails-Jul-17.pdf

REI's guide for beginner snowshoers
https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/snowshoeing-first-steps.html

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hbb
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PostThu Feb 07, 2019 1:19 pm 
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It would be really unusual for the park to require chains on 4WD vehicles--while everyone is required to carry chains, they are normally only required to be installed on 2WD.

If conditions are bad enough that rangers are requiring even 4WD vehicles to chain up, they've usually stopped uphill traffic to Paradise.

In those conditions, avalanche risk is probably a significant concern, and you should think long and hard about whether an alternative hike makes more sense.

No matter what you do, don't walk in the skintrack.
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zephyr
aka friendly hiker



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aka friendly hiker
PostThu Feb 07, 2019 2:16 pm 
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Great response silence.  That's a good round up of resources for our visitor.  Thanks.  ~z
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Mikey
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PostSat Feb 09, 2019 9:51 am 
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hbb  Note that: "In Mt Rainier National Park all vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park during the winter season (Nov 1 - May 1). This requirement applies to all vehicles (including four-wheel-drive), regardless of tire type or weather conditions."
I have had to put chains on my 4x4 3/4 ton pickup too many times to enter Mt Rainier National Park.  A National Park ranger apologized for requiring me to put on chains but he said that it was Federal Law that if chains are required, it applies to all vehicles.

caseyboo13  Assuming you are from Alabama, perhaps you have not much experience in mountains and snow, I suggest you do not plan hikes or snowshoeing in hazardous situations.  Long ago I flew into Birmingham, Alabama to go to Southern Research Institute and there was about 2" fresh snow and the area was completely shut down.  I asked the Taxi driver what was going on and he said people were not used to snow.  I asked if people had snow tires or studded snow tires on their vehicles and he said no.  Today is Feb 9, 2019 and Western and Eastern Wash has snow and cold weather.
The Crystal Mountain Ski Area has cams and when the weather permits, one cam points at the NE side of Mt Rainier and this will give you a good idea of the amount of snow and also the weather.  Also there are cams at Mt Rainier Nat. Park showing views at Paradise (the Sunrise Cam is shut down because Sunrise is closed).
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natural_log
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PostSat Feb 09, 2019 3:28 pm 
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Rental car companies often do not permit the use of chains on their fleet due to damage the chains can cause.
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caseyboo13
Casey R.



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Casey R.
PostSun Feb 17, 2019 5:55 pm 
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Thank you everyone so much for your recommendations! From everything you guys said, I think the safest option would be to find other places to hike that won't be so snow covered and difficult to get to. If anyone has some recommendations around Portland and Seattle that we could get to in our rental car (without chains) and won't need snowshoes and whatnot, feel free to drop them here!
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