Winter Snowshoe at Mt. Rainier’s Paradise

On Christmas night a few years back, I felt the pull towards snow. I know, Christmas in the Northwest is the “gift God wrapped in green,” but I needed some WHITE and I needed it soon. We made a spur of the moment decision to head up to the Paradise Visitor’s Center at Mt. Rainier National Park the next morning and join in a short snowshoe tour that they were offering. It ended up being a highlight of our holiday that year.

Part of what made it so awesome was that the nice rangers at the Visitor’s Center outfitted us in snowshoes for FREE! (I recommend leaving a small donation.) We didn’t have to go to the trouble of finding a place to rent the snowshoes at the last minute, and since we don’t own any of our own, this made this spontaneous excursion very doable. Since then I’ve wanted to tell everyone about this, because I like being nice to people.

The tour left from the Visitor’s Center and we completed a short loop of less than 2 miles, which was just our speed for that day. We stopped often, and our ranger-guide provided a wealth of interesting facts about the forest and the mountain while the kids rolled around in the snow.

I reached out to Mt. Rainier National Park and they are not doing the Ranger-led tours during the 2020-21 season–another Covid casualty–but hopefully they will be back next winter. But if you can borrow or rent some of your own snowshoes, it is totally worth it to go and find your own loop, and you can still leave from Paradise!

Click here for a link to a bunch of additional trail options. Be sure to double-check that roads are accessible before you head out.

The day we went the sun came out and turned the freshly fallen powder into a blanket of diamonds, the wind was calm and gentle, and the clouds cleared out when we hit the viewpoint and we were able to see Rainier in all of her winter glory. I can’t promise you that you will be as lucky with the weather–Rainier is feisty and unpredictable. However, if you get up there and it is snowing and you are basically walking around in a real-life snow globe scene, you will nonetheless have a glorious time.

My advice: dress warm, bring a big thermos of warm soup, another thermos with cocoa, and a loaf of french bread to enjoy at the end of your loop and you’ve pretty much got a perfect day.