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

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
September 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.


Update.-- This year the season for wildflowers, see map of areas, will extend through the Labor Day weekend in the some of the mid-upper elevation meadows and alpine areas, such as Paradise, Yakima Park and Spray Park, and then fade as the weather changes for the season.

Update.-- The NPS is conducting work on the Stevens Canyon road, highway 706 between the intersection of the Paradise Loop Road and highway 123 in the southeast area, see press release. This will cause up to 20 minute delays in the two locations until September 4th when the highway will be closed for major work until the normal winter season closure.

Summer operations continues through the Labor Day holiday weekend in September. You can get the latest information for places in the NP. Immediately after the holiday weekend the NPS begins the reduction and then closure of facilities, campground and roads which lasts into October and November for the normal winter closures.

This year early August was the month the end of the seasonal snowmelt in the NP, and only continued into September above 6,000 feet, in the backcountry areas and on the trails depending on the location in the NP. With the normal cooler late September - early September temperatures some snow may persist in remote areas so plan and prepare accordingly and always get the latest trail information.

Note.-- September is the month the last of the bugs are gone in the NP. It's the best time for cool weather hikes.

September News:
The weather is fall at all elevations and cooler at the mid-upper elevations with sunny and clear and occasional periods of clouds or overcast;
The day and night temperatures vary with the weather from cool during the day to cold at night;
The facilities are open at Longmire and Paradise but closing at Sunrise;
The people will decrease after the holiday weekend and through the month.

Many of the higher elevation trails may still have snow through September, but all lower elevations trails are snow-free. 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.

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 waning and fall weather and conditions arriving, 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 September and into October are best for fall. There are lots of excellent nature and landscape scenes everywhere, many outside the popular areas. The open tourists areas will be far less crowded after the Labor Day holiday weekend, as will be the trails almost everywhere within 1-2 miles of the trailheads, especially those in the visitors areas and along the highways.

The wildflower season ends in early September throughout the NP. You can get more information on the wildflower areas with map of the meadows.

The waterfalls will have normal flows for the season due to the lack of snow except at the upper elevations. You can get the location and more information on the waterfalls with map of the waterfalls in the NP.

A good destination photo hike are the four fire lookouts in and near the NP. 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.

This is the time you can get late summer or early fall scene photos as snow will still be present at higher elevations throughout the NP in September. The lower elevations are excellent for summer-to-fall forests scenes with the background of snow on the upper elevations and Mt. Rainier.

The Wonderland Trail may have snow in the higher elevations sections of the trails. 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 good early fall weather the month has many good photo opportunities for late summer and early fall 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 the latest weather conditions on the Mt. Rainier map of weather sites.

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. 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 when the weather and condition permits. 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, especially for day hikes, to 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.

If you plan to travel on snowfields or glaciers, you should be experienced or go with guides or hikers with experience with snow/glacier travel and navigation. It's not something you learn when you get there.

Photo Locations

September is the month summer operations continues through the Labor Day holiday weekend and operations begin the switch to fall and later winter operations. You can get the latest news and location information.

That said there are many photo opportunities in September for all photographers, summer forest scenes at all elevations and snow scenes in the higher elevations. This is further described by area.

Northwest Area.-- The Carbon River valley is a lowland forest for the first five miles of its length to Ipust Creek campground as is the Mowich Lake Road to Mowich Lake and the campground, but many trails above Ipsut Creekn and Mowich Lake to mid-upper elevations areas, meadows and alpine areas have expansive views of Mt. Rainier

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 with possible snow on the higher elevations around the Mowich Lake area in the month.

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, until October.

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. The highway closes September 4th between the west intersection of the Paradise Loop Road and the Box Canyon tunnel until the normal winter closure.

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 meadows, alpine areas and 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, which improves after the holiday and the rest of the month.


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, especially 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.


September is one of the best month for photographers, but just be prepared for dynamic weather. While many areas may have snow some areas at the upper elevations, the rest of the NP will be snow free through the month into October.

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