Mazama Ridge Snowshoe

2.2-3-4.jpg

Mazama Ridge Snowshoe 

Mileage: 3.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation gain: 900 feet

Pass: National Parks Pass

Drive Time: 2.5 hours from Seattle

No dogs allowed 

Trail Map (pdf)

Special note: Vehicles are required to carry tire chains in Mount Rainier National Park from November 1 to May 1. Autosocks are allowed for passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds as an alternative. You can rent chains from Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford, too (see below).

 

My Instagram friend Mitch recently talked about the balance between traveling to a new place and revisiting an old favorite, and I couldn't help recognizing the sentiment. Most of the time I'm compelled to hike in places I've never been before, mainly for practical reasons: improving my knowledge of hiking in Washington State and pushing myself outside my boundaries.

But there's always one or two hikes—or, in this case, a snowshoe—that I come back to year after year. Mazama Ridge is that snowshoe for me: a wide, gently rolling fairway with gratifying views of Mount Rainier. In the summertime, magenta paintbrush and periwinkle lupine douse the meadow-like ridge, while winter turns her into a vast white playground.

 Mazama Ridge, August 2017

Mazama Ridge, August 2017

 Mazama Ridge, December 2017

Mazama Ridge, December 2017

What I love about Mazama Ridge

1. It usually feels quieter to me than other Paradise trails, a bit away from crowds.

2. Mount Rainier slowly rises above the treeline as you ascend to Mazama Ridge.

 Looking northwest towards Mount Rainier from 4th Crossing

Looking northwest towards Mount Rainier from 4th Crossing

3. It's a great half-day snowshoe: less than 5 miles roundtrip and a moderate elevation gain to a winter wonderland & spectacular views of Mount Rainier. 

4. You get nice views of the Tatoosh Range too.

IMG_5516.jpg

5. There's lots of space on the ridge to wander and play.

2.0.jpg

6. ...and enjoy hot cocoa :)

IMG_5648.jpg

Mazama Ridge Route

There are two main routes to Mazama Ridge from the Paradise parking area:

  • The summer route past Myrtle Falls on the Skyline Trail
  • The winter route on Paradise Valley Road (closed to vehicles in the wintertime) to the 4th Crossing 

A ranger I spoke with recommended taking Paradise Valley Road in the wintertime because it avoids avalanche danger and three sketchy creek crossings on the summer route. On the winter route, there are only one or two creek crossings and bridges are typically marked by the ski patrol. There isn't a marked route to Mazama Ridge in the wintertime (summer signs are covered in snow!) so it's a good idea to bring a map and navigation essentials.

Summer map for Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park 

Winter map for Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park 

My gpx track of the winter route to Mazama Ridge via Paradise River Road and 4th Crossing.  

The winter route takes off from the eastern end of the Paradise area parking lot, following Paradise Valley Road northeast. In 0.7 miles, the route leaves the road for 4th Crossing, climbing over 600 feet to reach Mazama Ridge at 5800 feet. The nice thing about Mazama Ridge is you can wander the ridge for as little or long as you like before turning around and heading back.

Winter Recreation - Mount Rainier National Park

The ranger I spoke with recommended stopping in the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center or the Longmire Museum to pick up a free trail map, chat with a ranger, and learn about current trail conditions. Here are their 2017/2018 winter hours:

Longmire Museum | (360) 569-6575

  • October 1 - April 30 / 9:00 am - 4:30 pm daily

Longmire General Store | (360) 569-2400 ext. 1140

  • September 5 - April 30 / 10:00 am - 5:00 pm daily
  • Ski season / 8:30 am - 6:00 pm weekends & holidays

Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise | (360) 569-2414

  • November 18 - December 22 / 10:00 am - 4:15 pm weekends only
  • December 22 - January 1 / 10:00 am - 4:15 pm daily
  • January 2 - March 30 / 10:00 am - 4:15 pm Fri-Sat-Sun

There's a deli and gift shop at the Jackson Visitor Center, too.

 

Onur snowshoes the 4th Crossing to Mazama Ridge. Mount Rainier in the background.

Snowshoe Rentals

Snowshoe and pole rentals are available in Mount Rainier National Park at the Longmire General Store and the Jackson Visitor Center. Outside the park, Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford has great deals on snowshoe rental packages, and shops in the Seattle area offer snowshoe rentals as well.

Longmire General Store (Longmire)

Snowshoes: $14.50 adults, $10.50 children. Poles $3.25 adults, $2.75 for children.

Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center (Paradise)

Snowshoes: $14.50 adults, $10.50 children. Poles $3.25 adults, $2.75 for children.

Whittaker Mountaineering (Ashford) 

Snowshoes and poles package for one day: $15.00. Snowshoes, waterproof boots, and poles for one day: $25.00. A few pairs of children's snowshoes are available. Tire chains are available for rent too at $15.00 per pair per day. 

Feathered Friends (Seattle) 

Snowshoes: $26.00 per day. Poles: $15.00 per day. 

REI (Seattle)

Snowshoe rentals for REI members: $26.00 for adults (up to three days, includes pick-up day, snowshoe day, and drop-off day), $12.00 for kids. Pole rentals: $10.00 for adults and children.

Snowshoe rentals for non-REI members: $52.00 for adults, $24.00 for children (with the same three day policy above). Pole rentals: $20.00 for adults and children.

REI members can rent equipment for non-members, the REI member just has to pick it up. REI members can rent up to seven items.

University of Washington (Seattle) 

UW students can rent snowshoes for $15.00 per day, and poles for $6.00 per day from the Gear Garage.

Miyar Adventures (Redmond) 

Snowshoes: $25.00 (up to three days, includes pick-up day, snowshow day, and drop-off day) for adults, $12.00 for children. Poles: $12.00

Directions

It's approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle to the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park. Here's the driving route I typically take:

  • I-405 to 167 South 
  • 512 West 
  • 161 South to Eatonville
  • Center Street East to Alder Cutoff Road East
  • Route 7 South through Elbe
  • Route 706 East to Mount Rainier National Park 
driving directions.png

There's a rest area in Elbe that's good for a pit stop, too.

Parking & Fees

Mount Rainier National Park requires a park entrance fee ($25 per vehicle, good for seven consecutive days). In the wintertime, the gate at the Longmire Visitor Center, which leads to the Paradise Parking area and Jackson Visitor Center, typically opens at 9:00 a.m. (check MNRP's twitter feed for daily gate opening times).

The Longmire gate closes to uploading, Paradise-bound vehicles at 4:00 p.m. The gate is locked for downloading visitors at 5:00 p.m. Rangers recommend leaving the Paradise parking lot by 4:30 p.m. at the latest to drive the 11.5 mile, mostly 35 mph road to get back to Longmire in time for the 5:00 p.m. gate closure. The road is slick and folks typically drive slowly, so even leaving by 4:15 p.m. would be a good bet.

 A view of Mount Rainier on the drive up to Paradise. December 2017

A view of Mount Rainier on the drive up to Paradise. December 2017

 February 2017

February 2017

Updates and Road Conditions

Mount Rainier National Park's twitter feed is the best way to get daily information about gate closures and openings. You don't need a twitter account to view it: just click on the link :)

Ranger-Guided Snowshoe Walks

If you're new to snowshoeing at Mount Rainier and looking for a guided experience, you can hop on an affordable, ranger-guided snowshoe walk from late December to March.

Ranger-guided snowshoe walks take place on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The first ranger-guided snowshoe of the 2017-2018 winter season is Saturday, December 23rd, 2017. From December 23, 2017-January 1, 2018 there will be daily snowshoe walks at 11:00 and 1:30 p.m.

How it works: When you arrive at the Paradise parking area, head over to the Jackson Visitor Center and sign-up for a snowshoe walk inside. Sign-ups start one hour before the walks. Tip: Sign-ups can fill quickly on sunny days, so you may want to get there early on a nice day. 

Participants: Walks are open to folks aged 8 and older, are limited to 25 folks, and are first-come, first-served.

Departure times: 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Distance: Approximately 1.8 miles in 2 hours

Cost: $5.00 donation per person recommended

Equipment: Snowshoes are provided for free for folks signed-up for the snowshoe walk. You can bring your own snowshoes to use, too. A hat, gloves, waterproof boots, sunscreen, and sunglasses are also recommended.

Neither the Jackson Visitor Center nor the Longmire General Store rents boots for snowshoeing. I asked the ranger what kind of boots he recommended wearing, and he said the most important feature of your boots is that they are waterproof! Canvas shoes, like converse sneakers, are the worst because you'll be standing and waiting in the snow, and they soak through quickly.

 Sunset on Mount Rainier from the Nisqually Vista Trail

Sunset on Mount Rainier from the Nisqually Vista Trail

Have a wonderful holiday season and happy 2018! :)