Perhaps the most classic winter adventure at Paradise is the snowshoe or backcountry climb up to Panorama Point, perched roughly 1,400 feet above Paradise Inn. This route up to Edith Creek Basin and Myrtle Falls is a shorter and more family-friendly version of the more rewarding but far more arduous trek.
From the Jackson Visitor Center, an 8-foot wide groomed trail meanders 0.5 miles one-way past Paradise Snowplay Area and the Inn to climb just over 200 feet to the open bowl of Edith Basin. In the summer, tourist flock here to see Myrtle Falls, one of the park's most popular and accessible destinations. In the cold of winter, however, the famous cascade is usually buried under what is sometimes the deepest snowpack in the world.
On average, Paradise receives 680 inches of snow annually. By comparison, 14,440-foot Mount Elbert in Colorado receives an average of 143 inches of annual snowfall. In the winter of 1971-72, Paradise set the world record for snowfall in a single season with 1,122 inches, which held until 1998-99, when nearby Mount Baker set the new world record with 1,140 inches. Paradise still holds the record, however, for most snow on the ground, at 367 inches, measured in 1956.
WA Hwy 706/Paradise Road up to Paradise is the only maintained and plowed road into Mount Rainier National Park with the exception of adventures departing 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 permits 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 it is open daily starting December 22.
Other than a National Park Pass, special day use permits are not required. Winter backcountry camping is permitted anywhere in Mount Rainier National Park once a minimum of 5 feet of snow has accumulated and as long as you maintain a minimum 300-foot distance 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.