Visiting Mount Rainier in the Winter: What to Expect?

RV Destinations


For some travelers, Mount Rainier National Park is an alluring summer destination with its mild summers, blooming wildflowers, and picturesque peaks. For others, this national park is a stunning winter getaway that captivates with its dramatic wintertime transformations. The lush growth forests become covered with a blanket of snow, and the surrounding landscapes appear straight out of a Christmas special. 

Make no mistake: Mount Rainier in the winter is a unique adventure that should be experienced first-hand. Are you ready to experience a Pacific Northwest adventure? If so, keep reading! This guide will cover everything you need to know about a winter visit to Mount Rainier. 

Driving To Mount Rainier in the Winter

The arrival of low temperatures and scenic transformations brings significant changes to Mount Rainier. One of those changes involves road closures. If you are visiting during this time of year, remember that most of Rainer’s roads remain closed during winter. Depending on your selected destinations, this hindrance may limit your opportunity to experience everything this park has to offer.

The good news is that the road from Nisqually Entrance to Longmire remains open year-round. However, this can change depending on extreme weather conditions, including snowstorms, hail, and ice on the road. At night, the road between Longmire and Paradise closes, and the risk of avalanches may force park officials to keep it closed. 

It is important to note that all vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling between November 1st and May 1st. The rule remains intact even if you are driving a four-wheel vehicle on sunny days. Rapid weather changes, such as snowstorms, can appear without warning. The tire chains provide an extra layer of protection so you can navigate safely without immediate concerns.

In January, the average temperature fluctuates between 22.5 and 34.9 degrees Fahrenheit. You should expect winter-like conditions going into April. The average high hovers in the low 40s. Snowfall is still common during this time of year.  

Winter Camping in the Park

When it comes to winter camping at Mount Rainier, there are several restrictions to consider. For starters, while camping on the snow is allowed almost anywhere inside the park, some locations offer weekend stays only. For example, visitors are only allowed to camp at Paradise on Saturday nights. In some cases, road conditions may become too severe for vehicles. 

Additionally, campers must select an overnight location that is at least 300 feet from plowed roads and parking areas. Finally, remember to keep your vehicle in overnight parking areas if you’re staying at Paradise, Longmire, or Narada Falls. Alternatively, there are overnight options outside of Mount Rainier that are well-suited for those traveling in motorhomes. Let’s explore the options below: 

Expo Center RV Campground

Located 38 miles from Mount Rainier, Expo Center RV Campground offers 27 paved sites, shower houses, water hookups, and picnic tables. The one downside is that there are no sewer hookups or dump sites. Any dumping found around your vehicle will result in a cancellation of your reservation with no refund. Additionally, using generators is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. 

Crystal Mountain Resort

Crystal Mountain Resort is an option you don’t want to pass up. Enjoy the luxuries of Summit House — Washington’s highest restaurant. Better yet, explore one of many scenic hiking trails surrounding the resort. Crystal Mountain can accommodate most RV sizes, including ones with slide-outs. However, just like the Expo Center, there are no dump or water stations. 

Winter Activities at Mount Rainier

Wintertime breathes new life into the Pacific Northwest. While temperatures become extreme, the fun doesn’t go away. Here are some you can make the most out of your trip:

  • Hike High Hut Snowshoe: With approximately 2,400 feet of elevation gain, hiking High Hut Snowshoe is a good way to obtain a proper workout. The steady ascent provides breathtaking views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.

  • Visit Carbon River: The Carbon River is one of few locations in the park that remains open year-round. You can hike or bike your way through dense forests and picturesque waterfalls.

  • Explore Paradise: If you’re looking for a winter wonderland that offers access to a multitude of recreational activities, Paradise is the place to be. You can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and winter camping.

  • Ride through Northwest Trek Wildlife Park: Experience this 725-acre wildlife park by taking a wild drive tour. You will encounter scenic lakes, meadows, mountain goats, and bison.   

Explore Mount Rainier With Cruise America

Should you visit Mount Rainier in the winter? We think you should. Prepare yourself for the adventure that lies ahead with Cruise America. We offer multiple-sized RV rentals equipped with modern-home essentials to keep you cozy, warm, and satisfied on your trip. Plus, our vehicles come with power brakes, so you know you are in good hands.

Visit your nearest RV rental location to explore your options. Contact us for more information.