Mount Rainier National Park News
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MPG V2.8, January 2013

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
May 2009

The purpose of this Web page is to provide some general monthly and seasonal conditions in Mt Rainier NP. It's not meant to necessarily completely accurate or updated, see the other news and access Web pages for that information. It is meant to be a general guide to help you visit to the NP. Much of the information has been gleaned from a variety of sources, often from trip reports, conversations with experienced people, Websites, news stories, etc.


This year, continuing from April, May is the transistion month when the snowmelts begins in earnest throughout the NP at almost all elevations below treeline, see the latest NRCS SNOTEL snow data for the Paradise station (southeast of Paradise visitors center). The warmer temperatures and any rain will impact the snowmelt throughout the month, especially at the lower elevations where a higher snowpack has persisted throughout the NP but should disappear during the month.

Currently the NP is transistioning to spring mode with the scheduled opening for the entrances, facilities, roads and campgrounds through May and June into early July. This schedule will vary with the snomelt and work the NPS can do to open the roads, campground and facilities. The Longmire area is always open and the Paradise will go into spring-summer operations in early-to-mid May.

So if you love snow and cold, and lots of white, you're still in luck. This means to come and be prepared for whatever you wish to do, and be flexible with your interests and schedule. And always check ahead.

Photo Oppoortunities

This year what applied in March and April still applies in May, meaning opportunities can be put down to one idea, snow. But it's the month the lower elevation trails will become snow-free and access to the remote areas easier. This is important if you're not into snowshoeing but don't mind hiking on patches of snow on the trails to photo opportunities.

Once the lower elevations become snow-free, the best opportunities will be in the southwest, Nisqually entrance, and northwest, Carbon River entrance, areas. The Mowich Lake area will be opened but likely to have snow at the Lake and higher elevations through most of the month into June. The southeast will provide good photo opportunities later in the month as the road, entrance and facilities open and the snowpack disappears in the lower elevations.

Another photo opportunity are on the highways approaching Mt. Rainier. On clear days the mountain should provide an excellent subject or backdrop for scenes around the NP. This is outside the scope of this photo guide, but doing some exploring of roads can provide some excellent views of the snaw-capped early spring mountain. The days are longer where you can time your sun and moon photos.


This month should provide good opportunities for waterfalls as the snowmelt increases the flows in creeks and over waterfalls. There are several easily accessible ones in the southwest area from Longmire to Paradise. The many smaller, unnamed ephemeral waterfalls should have seasonal flow, many of which are just off the road or trail or a short off-trail hike up small creeks.

The other prospect is the change of season as the trees and plants start their growing and blooming season. The best will be in the lower elevations forests, especially when the areas near ponds or remanents of snowmelt. The melt will release the smaller trees and provide openings for seedlings along with the the many smaller bushes and plants.

If you plan to hike into the backcountry, the NPS has issued an advisory on the backcountry and especially the Wonderland Trail, see Press Release. This year the high elevation trails are in snow and the weather is cold. It's the same adage about the NP, be prepared.

You can can get reports for previous months here.

Please use the contact link to send e-mail.

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WSR V2.8, January 2013