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

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
July-August 2012

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 conducting work on the Stevens Canyon road, highway 706 between the intersection of the road to Paradise and highway 123 in the southeast area, see press release. This will cause 30 minute delays in the two locations on the highway.

July is the first full month of summer operations which continues through the August into September. You can get the latest information for places in the NP. July is also the month visitor season begins in earnest and lasts through the Labor Day holiday weekend and the NPS operates the shuttle service between Ashford and Paradise.

July is the month the seasonal snowmelt continues through the month where the snow is gone at the lower elevations in the NP, under 5,000 feet, clearing in the mid-elevations, 5-6,000 feet, depending on the location in the NP, and ending this year in late July and early August for the higher elevations.

July and August are the months the NP comes alive for the summer as the snow disappears and the temperatures warm, but this still means that many trails may still have snow in the backcountry areas and on the higher elevations through July so plan and prepare accordingly and always get the latest trail information.

Note.-- July is also the month the bugs come alive in the lower elevations and follow the snowmelt in the mid-to-upper elevations through the summer, usually declining in mid-late August with the first near-freezing temperatures. Bring whatever bug treatment you usually use.

July-August News:
The weather is summer at the lower elevations and cooler at the mid-upper elevations with sunny and clear and occasional periods of clouds or overcast with rain with melting snow at higher elevations;
The day and night temperatures vary with the weather from warm during the day to cool at night;
The facilities are open at Longmire, Paradise and Sunrise;
The people will be present in numbers and the NPS operates the shuttle between Ashford and Paradise.

Many of the higher elevation trails will still have snow through July, but the lower elevations trails are snow-free, below 5-6,000 feet and clearing above 5-6,000 feet through the month. You should check the most recent trail conditions for the trails you're interested during your visit but still be ready for unexpected weather and trail 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 or snow conditions or to get some photographs. These areas are sensitive to damage may not recover during summer season.

You can check the latest weather site data for weather and snow conditions and the NPS and State Department of Transporation Websites for road conditions.

Note.-- With the summer weather and conditions, this still means you should plan, get the most recent information, be prepared for quick and severe changes in the weather and conditions and be flexible with your plans and schedules, especially when and where the NPS issues advisories.

Photo Opportunities

The photo opportunties in July and August are good for summer. There are lots of excellent nature and landscape scenes everywhere, many outside the popular areas. The open tourists areas will be crowded through the Labor Day holiday weekend, as will be the snow-free trails almost everywhere within about 1-2 miles of the trailheads, especially those in the visitors areas and along the highways.

This is also the time you can get summer scene photos as snow will still be present at higher elevations, above 6,000 feet, throughout most areas in the NP in July. 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.

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 conditions 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.

New.-- The wildflower season has started in the lower to mid elevations, below 5,000 feet, and will start in late July in the higher elevations. You can get more information on the wildflower areas with map of the meadows.

The waterfalls will closely follow last year with higher than normal flows due to the higher than normal snowpack and later snowmelt. This means many mid-upper elevation waterfalls will still have higher than normal flows through July, especially those fed by upper elevation snow.

This also means the upper elevation waterfalls will be in snow as will be the trails but clearing through July. If you plan to photograph waterfalls in the NP this year, check the snowpack for the elevation and location of the waterfall in the NP.

The Wonderland Trail is still snowbound in the higher elevations sections of the trail, above 5-6,000 feet, above which the snow is deeper than normal and will likely be there longer than normal, even possibily into August.

You should check with the NPS on snow and trail conditions for the period of your reservation and remember to get the permit for the campgrounds you plan to stay. You can get additional information on the backcountry Web page.

While only 3 of the five areas have detailed information, see area overview, you can get additional information about areas by quadrant and Paradise area, see the 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 mild late spring into summer weather the month has many good photo opportunities for summer scenes and landscapes, but remember the mountain makes its own weather, often the opposite of the weather in the lower elevations or the Puget Sound. You can check some places in the NP through their Webcams of Longmire, Paradise and Sunrise areas.

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 mid-to-upper elevations. You can check the sun and moon times for the periods of your visit.

Another great photo prospects later in the spring are the many open meadows and alpine areas, above 5-6,000 feet elevation when the weather and condition permits. In many areas the vegetation are still under winter snow for which I have to stress one point.

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

It is easy to damage the vegetation through the season. In addition you risk of being given a ticket by a Park Ranger for violating the rules (which all visitors accept when entering the NP).

The other prospects 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 (PDF), and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and conditions.

Until the snowmelts completely from the areas you want to visit and photograph, you should be experienced or go with hiker with experience with winter travel and navigation, camping. Everything is different than hiking and camping in normal summer seasons.

Photo Locations

All the facilities and places are open now in the NP, so everything is available to you, but there still is snow in the higher elevations, above 5-6,000 feet, throughout the NP which will last through July, so plan accordingly.

That said there are many photo opportunities in July and August for all photographers, summer forest scenes in the lower-mid elevations and snow scenes in the higher elevations. This is further described by area.

Northwest Area.-- The Carbon River valley is snow-free, leaving many opportunities if you're prepared for cooler weather. This provides many spring forest scenes and snow in the higher elevations.

The Mowich Lake road is open. The campground is open. This provides many scenic landscapes of the mountains, Lakes (Mowich and Eunice) and trails to remote areas, but expect snow on the higher elevations around the Mowich Lake area.

Northeast Area.-- Highway 410 is open to the summit of Cayuse and Chinook Passes and over to eastern Washington. The White River and Sunrise road is open as is the White River campground.

Southeast Area.-- Similar to the northeast area, highway 123 is open to Chinook Pass and to highway 410 to eastern Washington. The Stevens Canyon entrance is open, see note below.

  The NPS is conducting work on the Stevens Canyon road, highway 706 between the intersection of the road to Paradise and highway 123 in the southeast area, see press release. This will cause 30 minute delays in the two locations on the highway.

Southwest Area.-- This is the only area that is maintained for public access with visitors facilities at Longmire is open year-around and Paradise is open daily (10 am to 7 pm) through the Labor Day holiday. This provides a wealth of prospects from the low elevation forest through the mid elevation transistion and upper elevation snow, especially along the highway with many turnouts and trailheads.

Paradise Area.-- This area is only accessible from the southwest (Nisqually) entrance throughout the year. The limitation for photographers is simply the sheer number of visiors during the summer through the Labor Day holiday.


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.


July and August are good months for photographers, just be prepared for occasional dynamic weather. While many areas still have snow some areas at the higher elevations, the rest of the NP will be snow free after mid-late July and through August.

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