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

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
August 2011

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.


 This year summer visitors will encounter snow as the snowpack was far higher than normal and the onset of snowmelt considerably later than normal, see graph of the snowmelt to date. This means while the lower elevations (< 6,000 feet) will generally be snow-free, the upper elevations will have snow through August and into September.

Wildflowers.--This year the wildflowers were late and have only recently emerged in the open and alpine meadows above 5,000 feet, and will be there to and maybe through the Labor Day Weekend. So late summer visitors will have the best of both, fewer visitors, cooler temperatures and wildflowers.

August is one of the months of full summer operations, see access and conditions Web page. This year the summer weather is less dynamic and consistently cool with periods of warm and sunny and occasional periods clouds and fog/rain due to the mountains nature to create its own weather.

This year the late spring snowfall, higher than normal snowpack and late snowmelt delayed some openings of the roads, facilities, campgrounds and trails, but everything will be open with some snow persistent at the upper elevations through the month. The highways are now open for the season with some delays for seasonal work, see the Washington Department of Transportation status of mountain passes.

This means the trails has and will have snow during the month above 6,000+ feet and lower in some areas. 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 on snow covered open fields or 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 later this summer.

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 August are great for summer photographers with some snow scenes. There are lots of excellent nature and landscape scenes everywhere, many outside the popular areas. As the snow melts the open tourists areas will be more crowded, more so 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 get winter scene photos as snow is still present at elevations above 5-6,000 feet throughout the NP. You can check the latest weather conditions on the Mt. Rainier map of weather sites. The lower elevations are excellent for summer forests scenes with the background of snow on the upper elevations and Mt. Rainier.

The wildflower season is just starting this year and as of mid-late August, only the smaller, lower elevation meadaws and roadside where the snow is clear have wildflowers. The reason wildflower season will be in mid-August a short time after the snow clears and the weather warms in the meadows, see wildflowers Web page.

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 should first check ahead ask about the trail and snow depth on the trail.. 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

Despite the cooler weather so far this summer the month still has many good photo opportunities for snow scenes and landscapes at upper elevations and summer scenes at the lower, snow-free elevations. The problem in the month will be snow on the upper elevation trails and the weather, while generally clear and sunny, can be cool with clouds and rain showers.

That said there are many opportunities if you are prepared for the range of weather conditions and are flexible with the changing weather and conditions. These include the lower elevation forests, the waterfalls and lakes, and snow scenes at the upper elevations. Remember the while the days in the NP are longer as we head into August, see sun and moon times for the NP.

Another great photo prospect in August are the many open meadows and alpine areas, above 5-6,000 feet elevation when the weather permits. The bushes and trees in some areas may still be under snow, so I have to stress one point.

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

Even though there may be snow it is easy to damage the underlying vegetation near the surface. 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.

You should be experienced with backcountry hiking or camping, and more so this year with the higher snowpack and late snowmelt or go with hiker with experience with travel, navigation and camping in snow. Everything is still different than hiking and camping in normal years and snow will persistent well into August above 5,000 feet.

Photo Locations

All the roads, campgrounds and facilities are open.

That said there are many photo opportunities in August for all photographers, summer scenes, some with snow landscapes in the mid-to-upper elevation and forest scenes in the lower-to-mid elevations. This is further described by area.

Northwest Area.-- The Carbon River valley is snow-free at all elevations below 6,000 feet, leaving many forest scenes for the length of the river valley up to the Ipsut campground and beyond to the higher elevations and many of the trails off the river trail.

The Mowich Lake road is open. The campground is open. This area provides many scenic landscapes of the mountains, lakes (Mowich and Eunice) and trails to remote areas where you can expect snow at or above 5,000 feet well into August.

Northeast Area.-- This area will have some snow above 6,000 feet through the month, so while some of the roads and facilities are open, expect snow in the upper elevations. The road to Sunrise and the facilities at Sunrise are open.

Southeast Area.-- Similar to the northeast area will havevsnow above6,000 feet elevation through the month. The Stevens Canyon road will close for maintenance after the Labor Day weekend.

Southwest Area.-- This is the only area that is maintained for ready public access with visitors facilities at Longmire (all open year around) and Paradise (all open for the season). This provides a wealth of prospects at all elevations, especially along the highway with many turnouts and trailheads.

Paradise Area.-- This area is accessible from all the entrances when the passes open. It is also the most visited area with the most opportunties, more so when the snow melts later in August and into August.


August is a good month for photographers, this year however, weather permitting as we're having an unusually cool summer with clouds and rain showers. While many areas are opening to travel, there will be snow in some area above 6,000 feet, so you need to be prepared for the widest range of conditions. After that it's all in your interest and willingness for snow.

Many 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