Note.-- The northwest (Carbon River and Mowich Lake) area, the Southwest (Nisqually entrance) area and the Paradise (south-central) area have been updated. The other two areas, the northeast (White River and Sunrise) and southeast (Ohanopecosh), are scheduled for later in 2013.
For the purposes of presenting a photography guide to Mt. Rainier NP, I have divided the NP into quadrants, based on the four access highways and entrances to the NP, and the Paradise area where the main visitors center is located. These areas will be presented in general below where you can get additional information with the link for each area, see the travel overview for a map and general travel information.
You can also click on the map or links above to navigate to individual area. You can get a larger view of the map NP map (560KB jpg).
December is the first month of full winter operations through April, see access and conditions for information about the NP. The Nisqually entrance in the southwest is the only entrance open through the winter, all the rest are closed for the season as is the north-south highway (410 and 123) over Cayuse Pass on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains.
In addition there are restrictions on roads and for travellers through the winter. The first of these is that all vehicles must carry chains while in the NP. Chains are readily available at almost every tire store in western Washington, many with return policies in the spring if they were not used during the winter.
Out of state and international travellers.-- This also means visitors coming to the area and renting vehicles must ensure the vehicle has chains. This is often a common practice with car rental agencies in the winter, but it is best to always ask and ensure chains are included in the rental and vehicle.
The second restriction is the road between Longmire and Paradise is controlled in two places. The first place is a gate about a mile east of Longmire. The gate is closed to uphill traffic everyday at 5 pm and not reopened in the following morning except Tuesdays adn Wednesdays, see note below, until the road is checked and cleared for travel. You can check the status each day with the NP's Twitter account.
The second place is just west of the Nisqually Bridge before the uphill road to Paradise where restrictions will be enforced for vehicles for proper tires, and chains based on road conditions and the weather between the Nisqually Bridge and Paradise.
Note.--The road above Longmire to Paradise is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the winter of 2012-13, until later in the spring, depending on the snowpack and weather. Anyone at Paradise after the gate is locked on Monday will not be permitted to leave until Thursday morning after the road is open. This is new this year so please plan your trip with this in mind.
An additional restriction either on the road from Longmire to Paradise or for the NP at the entrance is when emergency conditions such as landslides close the road or situations occur when and where search and rescue efforts are being conducted in the NP.
The Paradise area is most visited area of the NP with the Jackson Visitors Center, Mountain Guide Center, and Paradise Inn. This area is also the longest drive from Seattle, Tacoma, or Portland, as it's just south of the mountain and near the center of the Park, accessible only by the highways inside the Park. Next to the Sunrise area the Paradise area has the closest view of Mt. Rainier with many short trails to viewing areas, great for photographs.
The Northeast area is most easily accessible area of the NP from Seattle, with the White River entrance and the road to Sunrise with the visitors center which is open July through September. It is accessed via highway 410 from Seattle on the way to Cayuse Pass or from Yakima over Chinook Pass. Highway 410 continues south into the Park as highway 123 to the southeast area and highway 12 as well as highway 706 to Paradise.
The Southeast area is the most accessible entrance from Portland via Interstate 5 to highway 12 or via the backroads east of Mount St. Helens Volcano Monument to Randle. It can also be accessed via highway 12 from Yakima over White Pass at Naches where it splits with highway 410 to Chinook Pass. You can also access the area via highway 7 at Morton to Elbe.
The Southwest area is the most accessed entrance for visitors from Tacoma via highway 7 south of Tacoma, or via highway 161 from Puyallup. The highway becomes 706 at Elbe to the Park entrance, to Paradise (Jackson visitors center), and onward to highway 123 in the southeast area. This area can also be accessed via highway 52 at Randle off highway 12 to highway 706 at Ashford.
The Northwest area is accessed from either Seattle or Tacoma via highway 165. It is the least accessible as it's via rural highways from various locations to the split to the Carbon River entrance and the Mowich Lake entrance, each with their own access to the NP. In addition the Carbon River road is closed at the NP boundary (trail only), and the Mowich Lake road closes seasonally, usually October or the first significant snowfall to early July, earlier depending on snowmelt.
Below are sources for additional information about Mt. Rainier and the NP.
Please send e-mail if you have any questions.
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