Mount Rainier National Park News
Map to access and conditions
All monthly reports

MPG V2.8, January 2013

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
September 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.


While August is the start of the transistion from summer to fall, September is the end of summer and start of fall in the NP. Like that's an understatement? With the exception of the occasional indian summer, September is a month of highly variable weather conditions, see table of extremes including snow, which won't stick but changes the scene a lot for the time it's there.

September is also the last month all the facilities are open every day and all the roads areas are open to visitors. This doesn't mean that access will always be clear and easy, early storms can bring road closures or snow and make hike and photography challenging. On the other hand, it's the month when an indian summer days can extend the summer. In this way, you should be prepared for the extremes with your clothes and equipment and be flexible with your plans, and always check the latest road and trail conditions.

It's fair to say the Labor Day weekend will be the busiest period in September and shortly afterward the number of visitors and hikers falls off considerably during the month. This opens up the trails for almost all the day hikes and especially the backcountry hikes, but other dedicated hikers and photographers also know this so there are others, just far fewer. This is good for photo locations and ops as it's easier to find times and places at common tourist or visitor places without people.

Photo Opportunities

This year the snowpack is long gone from all but a few places near or below 6,000 feet, and those will remaining snow are in the backcountry areas of the Wonderland trail. This makes all the areas great for photo locations and opportunities where the first signs of fall are appearing, especially the meadows and alpine areas. In addition, the days pass the equinox to shorten the day and makes sunrise and sunset photo ops easier during your visit. You can get information on the sun and moon, but remember the terrain in Mt. Rainier NP adds time to the sunrise and subtracts time from the sunset.

In addition, a good destination photo hike are the four fire lookouts in the NP along with two just outside the NP on the south and north sides. You can get a description of them and locate them on a map. They provides excellent vista of Mt. Rainier and the entire 360 view of the NP and area. The problem is that some of these have snow at and on the trail to them, so you have to be prepared with gear and clothing.

You can get additional information about areas by quadrant and Paradise area in the detailed descriptions, currently Paradise area, southwest area and northwest area available.

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 snow-capped mountain.


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

The other prospects are the open meadows and alpine areas. While the wildflowers are long gone, there still is the sheer beauty of the landscapes and Mt. Rainier. With fewer people, milder temperatures, and no bugs, the climate is great to be there and photograph the scenery.

I do have to stress one note about alpine areas and meadows.

Stay on the designated paths and trails in the meadows.

You may not leave a trace, but others may not be so cautious and careful about their footprint in environmentally sensitive areas. In addition you will run the risk of being given a ticket by a Park Ranger for violating the rules (which all visitors accept when entering the NP).

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.

[Top] [Guide] [Home]
Web Updates
Image Copyrights
Browser Optimization
WSR V2.8, January 2013