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

Current Season Conditions and Photo Opportunities
July-August 2013

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.


July is the start of full summer operations in the NP through the Labor Day weekend holiday, see access and conditions for information. All the entrances and roads are open, however, expect delays of up to 20 minutes during the summer on the Stevens Canyon Road as part of a complete rehabilitation of the road, see NP notices Web page.

This year the snowpack was higher than normal, see graph of the NRCS SNOTEL site southeast of Paradise for snow water equivalent. The snowmelt started around the normal time in May and ended slightly later than normal in mid-July for the mid elevations, 4-6,000 feet, and later in July for the upper elevations.

July and August News:
The weather is summer with the last of the snowmelt (July) and warm days;
The day and night temperatures will be cool at night to cool and warm during the daytime dependent on the weather with mostly sunny and warm days to occasional cool with overcast and showers;
The facilities are open through the Labor Day holiay weekend;
The people will be significant (number) especially weekends and holidays.

The trails will be mostly snow-free except in sheltered areas and the upper elevations, above 6,000 feet, so you can expect decent to good trail conditions for the summer with occasional overcast weather and storms. For any trail 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 in the spring and may not recover for 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.-- Even with the better weather and temperatures in the NP and especially the backcountry, 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 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 trails almost everywhere within 1-2 miles of the trailheads, especially those in the visitors areas and along the highways.

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

The waterfalls will have slightly higher than normal flows in July and early August due to the higher than normal snowpack and longer snowmelt. This means many mid-upper elevation waterfalls will still have higher than normal flows in August, especially those fed by upper elevation snow.

This is also the time you can get summer scene photos as snow will still be present at higher elevations throughout the NP in August. 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 any snow 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.

The Wonderland Trail may have snow in the higher elevations sections of the trail in early-mid August and clearing later in the month. 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 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 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 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.

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 above normal snowpack this year high elevation trails will have more 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.

Note.--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

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 6,000 feet, throughout the NP which will last into August, so plan accordingly.

That said there are many photo opportunities in August 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 Ipsut Creek campground as is the Mowich Lake Road to Mowich Lake and the campground, but many trails above Ipsut Creek 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 early-mid August.

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 up to 20 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 the summer 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.


July and August are the best months for photographers, but just be prepared for occasional changes in the weather. While many areas may have snow some areas at the higher elevations, the rest of the NP will be snow free after mid-late July and through August into September.

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