There is no doubt that snowshoeing has grown in popularity over last decade. With the rise in interest, however, how do you know where to begin? There is a myriad of snowshoeing options in and around Mt. Rainier. Let’s take a look at three of the best spots for snowshoeing, courtesy of VisitRainier.com.
Trail of the Shadows
Distance: 0.8 mile loop
When snow levels in the park are low, the easy Trail of the Shadows makes for a perfect destination if you’re brand new to snowshoeing. Starting right across the road from the lovely and historic Longmire Inn, this easy 0.8 mile nearly level loop circles around scenic Longmire Meadow. Traipse through towering old growth while you skirt the meadow. Catch glimpses of the Mountain and of Rampart Ridge forming an emerald northern flank. Pause to check-out the 1888-built homestead cabin, built by pioneer James Longmire and his sons. And pass by a pair of bubbling warm springs which gave rise to a hotel and spa (now gone) more than 125 years ago. Then return to the inn for a hot drink by the fireplace. If you’re looking for more exercise and up for a good workout, follow the Rampart Ridge Trail for a short ways from the loop.
Distance: 4.0 miles roundtrip
Here’s an opportunity to snowshoe a section of the famous 93-mile round the mountain Wonderland Trail. From Longmire head north on Rainier’s signature trail. Soon bear right at a junction and follow the trail—this section once an old carriage road—through towering old trees. Soon the way comes up along the Nisqually River. Now follow the crashing river upstream pausing along the way to marvel at Eagle Peak rising to the east.
There are several nice viewpoints along the way. Just be sure to safely stay far enough back from the river bank. Approach Cougar Rock Campground and continue a short distance beyond it dropping down to the river outwash area. Here a log bridge crosses the river. This is the end of the route for most snowshoers—as the bridge crossing and terrain beyond can be tough in winter. From this spot, enjoy a breathtaking view of Mount Rainier hovering over the glacier-fed river. Then turn around and enjoy a gentle downhill return.
Distance: 4.0 miles roundtrip
While Paradise is world renowned for its summer wildflowers, when shrouded deep in snow it is a breathtaking winter wonderland. From a lofty 5400-feet starting point, you can snowshoe the high country with minimal effort. The trek to the Reflection Lakes requires no dangerous avalanche chute crossings. And it requires no tricky navigation either as the park service marks the route with snow wands.
From Paradise, follow the Lakes Trail slowly descending on a ridge above the Paradise Valley. The way traverses deep old-growth forest reaching the Paradise River at 0.6 mile and after dropping 600 feet. Cross the river on a bridge and then begin climbing. Cross the closed-in-winter and buried-in-snow Paradise Road and continue climbing reaching a junction (elev. 5,150 feet) at 1.1 miles. The way left is a more challenging but incredibly scenic route along the High Lakes Trail to Mazama Ridge.
You want to continue straight descending 300 feet and reaching the larger of the Reflection Lakes at 1.6 miles. The lakes which in summer beautifully reflect the Mountain will appear as a frozen meadow. It’s always a prudent move not to snowshoe across them—feel free to explore along their edges. It’s about .4 mile to the smaller lake. Be sure to admire the steep frozen spires of the Tatoosh Range from a safe distance—as there are several avalanche slopes on these peaks. Find a nice spot in a cluster of firs to have your lunch—and be prepared to guard your morsels from scavenging gray jays who flutter over these lakes year round.