Mt. Rainier is pretty all year but there is something about the period between December and March, when the upper reaches are blanketed heavily in snow.
No paltry amounts either, Rainier is a master at creating her own weather and often is hidden behind heavy clouds for weeks on end. Dumping and dumping snow. If you want to see a cool link, head over to this page and scroll down to weather and click on the PDF on annual snowfalls. PNW hikers may well remember the winter of 98-99 when Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park never opened (it snowed so much that year you couldn’t see the day lodge when the news helicopter flew over it!), at Rainier that year over 1,000″ of snow fell. When you step out to snowshoe at Rainier it is an utter fantasy land of snow. Often super fluffy, not the “famed” Cascade Concrete that blows to walk on at times.
The lovely Karen Sykes (Karen wrote the long running and influential column ‘Hike Of The Week’ for many years, which sadly ended after the Seattle P-I went down) writes for the Visit Rainier organization, that helps promote visiting our beloved fiery lady (Rainier, not Karen…hehheh!). Her recent column was on the Mazama Ridge snowshoe hike. The ridge is just the start of trips aplenty, one to take on a blinding blue day. As you start you wander along Paradise River (Creek) that once was much bigger but is still wonderful in winter:
The views once you break out of the trees is the Mountain in your face. And worth the elevation gain indeed. But don’t stop! Head back a bit and then down into Reflection Lakes basin where the Tatoosh Ridge is so close you might just keep going:
And if you sit there long enough you might just see hares, a fox, a watchful eagle and more. Just be sure to stay on the wanded trails if the snow hasn’t consolidated – that powder can be “fun”. Step off and “woomph” up to your stomach. Breaking trail is the ultimate hike on those days 😉
If you ever get a chance to visit Tahoma in winter, come on a sunny day and head to Narada Falls and start walking!