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

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
October 2010

The purpose of this Web page is to provide some general monthly and seasonal conditions in Mt Rainier NP. It's not meant to be 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.


 The NPS is reporting car break-ins at some trailheads and campground parking lots. The car break-ins are the smash and grab type and while the NPS is reporting the string appears to have ended, they still warn visitors to secure valuables out of sight when away from your vehicle.

October is the beginning from fall to winter operations, see access and conditions Web page. The weather will be dynamic and is consistently cool to cold with frequent periods of overcast, low level clouds and rain, with the possibility of a rare snow storm, but these are short lived.

This is the month of closures and restrictions throughout the NP, specifically the closure White River Road at highway 410 Oct 12th, the closure of the Ohanapecosh facilities Oct 12th, and the reduction of the Jackson Visitors Center to weekends and holidays. The Paradise Inn and Mountain Guide Center at Paradise closes Oct 4th. After that all the closures occur Nov 1. You can get the complete information about visitor information from the access Web page or NPS Newsletter.

This means the trails will be clear of snow during the month below 6,000. You should always check the most recent trail conditions for the trails you're interested during your visit but still be ready for unexpected conditions.

One important note. Please stay on the designated trails when hiking in open fields or across meadows and don't wander off because of bad trail conditions or to get some photographs. These areas are sensitive to damage this time of year and may not recover until the spring.

Paradise snowplay areas.-- The Paradise snowplay areas will open later this winter when there is sufficient snow. winter recreation You should still restrict your travel on snow to the trails. This reduces the impact to the underlying vegetation during the upcoming winter season.

With respect to the weather, you should be aware of both the latest NWS forecast as well as the latest real-time weather data and check the Webcams at Paradise.


Advisory about Trails.-- During adverse weather in meadows and open areas, it is important to minimize the danger to vegetation, expecially wildflowers and low vegetation, and as such please follow this rule.

Stay on the designated paths and trails on the snow where flagged.

This is critical in the popular areas and on the trails in the Paradise area. This is less critical in the backcountry where many of the trails are already established.

Advisory about Guns.-- Beginning February 22, 2010, openly carrying guns in the NP is legal and concealed with a legal permit. However, there are a number of conditions, which you can find here with links to additional information.

It is illegal to carry a gun indoors and it is illegal to use or fire a gun anywhere in the NP.

This is especially important in the visitors areas, the campgrounds, on the trails, and in the backcountry. You can only openly carry a gun or concealed with the proper (state) permit) and nothing else. You can not unholster, use or discharge the weapon anytime or anywhere in the NP. The NPS has trained and instructed the park and backcountry rangers to treat all visitors as if they are carrying a gun unless it is clear the visitor is not carrying a gun.

Photo Opportunities

The photo opportunties in October are still good for fall and non-winter photographers. There are lots of excellent nature and landscape scenes everywhere, many outside the popular areas. The open tourists areas are less crowded, except on weekends and holidays, as are the trails almost everywhere within about 1-2 miles of the trailheads, especially those along in the visitors areas and along the main highways.

This is also the time you can still get winter scene photos as snow will be present to some depth at elevations above 6,000 feet. You can check the latest weather conditions on the Mt. Rainier map of weather sites. The lower elevations are excellent for forests scenes with the background of snow on the upper elevations and Mt. Rainier.

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.

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.

Photo Prospects

This month has good opportunities for fall and high elevation forests and landscape scenes and for the many waterfalls, which you can locate with map. There are several easily accessible ones in the southwest area from Longmire to Paradise. There still is sufficient daylight and good weather for longer day hikes to some more remote waterfalls at the lower-to-mid elevations. A tripod is always recommended along with neutral density filters to reduce the shutter speed for the flowing effect of the water.

Another great photo prospect in October are the many open meadows and alpine areas, above 5-6,000 feet elevation when the weather permits. The bushes and trees are fully grown for the season, but with both these areas I have to stress one point.

Stay on the designated paths and trails in the meadows and open areas.

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).

The other prospect for nature, landscape and scenery photography are up to your imagination and willingness to go and explore off the roads on many of the trails, many accessible via day hikes, see map of hikes. Just remember wear appropriate hiking clothes and boots, and carry the basic backpacking gear and supplies, including the ten essentials, and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and conditions.

The last prospect are the many areas open with a backcountry hike, see map of information, meaning an overnight or longer hike into the more remote areas of the NP. This is where many of the less photographed and more beautiful scenes can be found and captured. But these are for the experienced backcountry hiker, especially solo, and with planning for the trip and camping permits for your overnight stays.

If you plan a hike into the backcountry, the NPS may have issued an advisory on the backcountry trails, see press releases. In addition there are rules for hiking the Wonderland trail. With the late snowpack and snowmelt this year high elevation trails may still have snow and the weather will be cold. It's the same adage about the NP, be prepared.

That said many of the best photo opportunities are in the backcountry areas, often 3-5 day round trip hikes. In addition many more areas are off the trails in the cross-country zones of the NP. Some suggestions are listed below and you can view a map of the areas along with the rules for the zones.

Northwest Area.-- The area above Spray Park west of the Carbon Glacier, accessible from either the Carbon River or Mowich Lake trailheads, the area above (south) of the Wonderland trail between the Carbon and Winthrops Glaciers, and the area east of the Winthrop Glacier, the last also accessible from the Sunrise area trailheads.

Northeast Area.-- The area on the Wonderland trail between Summerland and Indian Bar campgrounds accessible from the trailhead on the White River road before the White River campground. Another area, but not a high elevation area, is Grand Park north of Berkeley Park, accessible from the Sunrise area trailheads.

Southeast Area.-- The area of Cowlitz Park, southwest of Indian Bar, to the area east and above the Paradise area, accessible from the Wonderland trail or Paradise area trails.

Southwest Area.-- The area above Indian Henry's Hunting Ground, accessible from the Wonderland trailhead at Longmire or the Tahoma Creek trailhead off the Westside Road. The latter trail is unmaintained and used mostly by backcountry rangers. You should inquire with the rangers at Longmire for the condition of this trail. It is, however, the quickest and shortest route to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground area with the trail continuing past the suspension bridge to the overlook to the Tahoma Glacier.


October is a good month for photographers, weather permitting. Every area is open and snow-free except for the higher elevations, above 6,000 feet. So, the only obstacles to your photography are the crowds and access to the areas and trailheads you plan to visit, and the availability of permits if you don't have yours already.

All the photo opportunity are there, so there is a wealth of places to go, look and capture. Please enjoy your visit to the NP and follow the old adage, Leave No Trace. We'd all like to enjoy it in your footsteps without seeing your presence.

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