Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog Watch for Winter Road Closures Across the Cascades

Watch for Winter Road Closures Across the Cascades

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Nov 14, 2018 11:30 AM |

With winter right around the corner, be prepared for road closures throughout the cascades. Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass around Mount Rainier, and the North Cascades Highway all tend to close in mid-Novemer.

With winter right around the corner, be prepared for road closures throughout the cascades. A few key routes well-traveled by hikers across Washington are seasonal. Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass at Mount Rainier, along with The North Cascades Highway all close in the winter. Once they are cleared of snow in spring, they open back up to vehicle traffic.

Hiking in Washington means road closures and restrictions are something to pay attention to. Mountain road closures are an annual occurrence at higher-elevation passes due to heavy snowfall and avalanche danger. Once spring rolls around and the passes have been cleared, they will reopen for transportation.

Mount Rainier's seasonal shift

While they are still open, Cayuse (SR 123) and Chinook Passes (SR 410) typically close for the season in November. Cayuse Pass will close between Crystal Mountain Boulevard and the Stevens Canyon Road entrance. Chinook Pass will close between Crystal Mountain Boulevard, about 12 miles northwest of the summit, and Morse Creek, five miles east of the summit.

For more information on seasonal road closures, head over to the Washington State Department of Transportation website, where you can follow the conditions on all major mountain passes.

Naches Peak Loop by AllOfUs.jpegEarly season snow closed Chinook Pass in early November 2017. Photo by AllOfUs.

Mount Rainier access in winter

Visitors to Mount Rainier National Park should check out the road status at Mount Rainier's website or on Twitter before planning a trip. Gates may be closed only on certain days, or at certain times of the day, so be sure to travel accordingly. For visitor and staff safety, rangers and snow plow operators evaluate road, weather, avalanche and staffing conditions every morning.

When planning your winter mountain adventure, be sure to check trip reports, weather conditions and pack accordingly. The National Weather Service provides detailed mountain forecasts on their website, while the Washington Snow Map can give you an insight on snow depth in the area.

Winter Camping: If you have a winter overnight trip planned at Mount Rainier, remember that backcountry permits are required, but easy to obtain, and hard-sided food containers are required. Overnighters should plan their travels with an understanding of nightly or scheduled gate closures. Check out the National Park's guide to winter camping for more information.

Vehicles: All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park, including 4WD vehicles.

Activities: Despite stricter winter access, Mount Rainier is still brimming with activity. From sledding to snowshoeing, to camping and skiing, your options are vast. Check out some ideas for winter recreation on the mountain. We also recommend brushing up on some winter safety tips before your next adventure.

closures around the north cascades

The North Cascades Highway (SR 20) also typically closes in mid-November or early December due to avalanche danger. The pass will be closed at milepost 134 on the west side, and milepost 171 on the east side.

Before heading out, travelers should check out the road status on WSDOT's website. You can also check forecasts for the western slope and eastern slope of the Northern Cascades, and real-time conditions from the Rainy Pass and Washington Pass Weather Station.

When DO the passes open again?

Well, that's up to Mother Nature. But in the past, passes usually open in May. You can see the historical dates.