Among the numerous winter adventures based in and around Paradise, the trek up Edith Creek Basin to Panorama Point, and the 3.5-mile one-way cross-country ski to Reflection Lakes are the most classic.
Departing from the backside of Paradise Inn, the trail (which is an unmaintained road) that gradually descends 600 feet to the bottom of Paradise Valley starts off groomed. Once you make it to 4th Crossing, however, you'll have the opportunity to cut new tracks into this backcountry winter wonderland. From the trail near Inspiration Point the Nisqually Valley opens up and the Tatoosh Range with Eagle Peak dominates the scenery. Looking back, you'll enjoy views of massive Mount Rainier behind your shoulder.
From Inspiration Point the trail levels out for the additional mile to Reflection Lakes. Certainly a different landscape in winter than in summer, the view of Mount Rainier from Reflection Lakes is one of the park's most classic perspectives.
Highway 706/Paradise Road up to Paradise is the only maintained and plowed road into Mount Rainier National Park with the exception of adventures that depart from Chinook Pass. Paradise Inn is closed in the winter, but the Jackson Visitor Center (Paradise) is open and staffed on weekends and holidays from mid-October through May. The National Park Inn in Longmire is open year-round.
The gate at Longmire, which allows vehicles up to Paradise, is only open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., and it is highly recommended that all vehicles start their return to Longview no later than 4:30 P.M. The gate is only open Thursday through Monday from November 12 through December 21, and the gate opens daily starting December 22.
Other than a National Park Pass, special day use permits are not required. Winter backcountry camping is permitted throughout Mount Rainier National Park once a minimum of 5 feet of snow has accumulated as long as you camp a minimum of 300 feet from all trails and structures. A free backcountry permit is required and can be obtained at the Longmire Information Center and at the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. Groups larger than 12 can camp in the designated group campsites at Paradise only.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.