Distance: 5-6 Mile Loop
It’s not too late to head to Mount Rainier for spring snowshoeing! With the abundance of snow this winter the trek to Mount Rainier is worth the amazing adventure that awaits you whether you snowshoe or back country ski. The Mountain is calling …..”You must go!”
Plan on leaving Woodinville by 7:30 AM to reach the Nisqually entrance off Hwy 7. The long drive is worth it! Once you have paid the entrance fee it is another six miles to the Longmire National Park Inn where there is a gate blocking the road.
This gate to Paradise opens at 10 AM and closes at 5 PM daily in the winter. There is usually a line of cars eagerly waiting for the gate to open. All cars must carry chains or be 4-wheel drive. If chains are required, the ranger at the first gate to the park will tell you. Also ask about any avalanche concerns. If you need chains, Whittaker Mountaineering store in Ashford has rental chains available on the way to the park. Also the store at The Longmire Inn rents snowshoes.
Once the gates are open follow the road up the mountain towards Paradise. About 8 miles past the Longmire gate you’ll see a sign for parking on the right at Narada Falls. Park, gather your gear and find the start of the trail directly after the restroom (the big stone building called the “Clubhouse” on your left).
The signs for the trail are good. Look for the orange signs that read “Reflection Lakes Trail 1.5 Miles”. After the first half mile you’ll come to a major trail intersection. Turn right (heading east) towards Reflection Lake. Take in the amazing views that surround you, the jagged white capped mountains on your right are part of the Tatoosh Range. On clear sunny days the snow crystals sparkle like diamonds, so real you’ll want to pick them up to take home. (Don’t forget your sunglasses and/or visor).
Follow the well-trod snow shoe trail left by others, you’ll need your poles for balance in the deep snow. Try stomping in the deep snow along side the trail to make your own Bigfoot tracks (best low impact workout ever). The lake is a good spot for photos and a snack. Watch for the “Robber Jays” here that are eager to share your snacks. (See photo)
At the first lake, turn left and follow the sign to paradise 2.5 miles on the lakes trail. This trail takes you up and over Mazama Ridge leading to amazing views of the mountain on a clear day. The trail turns north and crosses the snow covered road leading to Paradise. This road is easy snowshoeing (1.5 miles) and great views up to the Jackson Visitor Center where hot cocoa and sandwiches await.
Finish your trek by taking the downhill trail (on the left of the road heading back to the park entrance) back to the Narada Falls parking lot. Mission accomplished.
For the post-hike treat stop by Whittaker’s Café & Expresso owned by the climbing legend Lou Whittaker, whose 90 year old twin brother Jim was the first American on Everest.
Watch for the upcoming article “NW Climbing Icons”. For other interesting articles to follow this one see www.trailcrossings.com