Heavy Snows Close Mount Rainier Passes
About 20 inches of fresh snow fell on Mount Rainier passes over the weekend, increasing avalanche danger and prompting the Washington State Department of Transportation to close Cayuse (SR 123) and Chinook Passes (SR 410) to vehicles for the season, though they remain open to winter recreation.
Washington's high country is beginning to see some serious snow accumulation. About 20 inches of fresh snow fell on Mount Rainier passes over the weekend, increasing avalanche danger and prompting the Washington State Department of Transportation to close Cayuse (SR 123) and Chinook Passes (SR 410) to vehicles temporarily, though it won't be long before they are closed for the season.
- Chinook Pass, elevation 5,430 feet, is closed from Morse Creek ((MP 74.5), five miles east of the summit to Crystal Mountain Boulevard, about 12 miles northwest of the summit.
- Cayuse Pass is closed within Mount Rainier National Park from the 4,675-foot Cayuse Pass summit to Stevens Canyon Road.
Mount Rainier access in winter
The National Park has officially entered its winter season. As in past years, the road gate immediately above Longmire is closed nightly. For visitor and staff safety, rangers and snow plow operators evaluate road, weather, avalanche and staffing conditions every morning. Visitors planning a trip to Paradise should check for current road status and weather on the park's website or Twitter feed.
In general, the Longmire area will remain open seven days a week.
- Before December 21, the gate at Longmire will open Thursdays through Mondays, at 9:00 a.m. The road will close nightly at 5:00 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4:00 p.m. The gate will not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during this period.
- Between December 21 and the end of March, the National Park aims to provide seven-days-a-week access to Paradise. The target open hours for the road above Longmire during this period will continue as 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4:00 p.m
Overnight camping. The entire park is open for visitor use throughout the winter season, including overnight winter camping with a valid permit seven days a week. Overnight campers should plan their travels with an understanding of nightly or scheduled gate closures. Visitors camping at Paradise between now and December 21 should not plan on driving out on Tuesday and Wednesday when the road is closed.
Carry chains. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park, including 4WD vehicles.
The status of other mountain passes
- For now, the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) remains open, though probably not for too much longer. Last year it closed November 20.
- The Mountain Loop Highway is currently open between Deer Creek Road and Barlow Pass, though it will likely close for winter soon as well. Check the Snohomish County road closure website for updates.
When will the passes open again?
When will the passes open again? Well, that's up to Mother Nature. But in the past, Cayuse & Chinook passes usually open in May. You can see the historical dates here.
Mountain pass updates all winter
You can also follow the conditions on all major mountain passes throughout the winter at the Department of Washington's Department of Transportation website or Twitter feed.
How much snow and where?
When planning your winter hiking and snowshoeing adventures, one of the most important steps is to check the weather. Below are some great online resources for mountain weather and road conditions:
- Get detailed mountain forecasts at National Weather Service's Mountain Forecast
- Avalanche forecasts and comprehensive weather data Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center
- Gauge snow depth with the Washington snow map from the National Water and Climate Center.
- WSDOT has up-to-date mountain pass conditions, including cameras on five popular routes.
- It is also wise to call ahead to the ranger station where you plan to hike or snowshoe.