a hiker stares out at mt. rainier in washington

On a clear day, this is the best winter hike in Washington (with epic photos)

There are few things better than a bluebird day in Washington. We’re known for gloomy and wet conditions, but the magic happens when the sun shines! So, why not tackle the best winter hike in Washington?!

We saw the magical ‘sun’ icon on the weather apps and immediately knew we needed to head down and spend a day snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier. Mount Rainier National Park is one of the state’s most impressive and stunning locations in winter. 

The Paradise Visitor Center is the highest paved road in the state, giving you unparalleled access to top-notch snow conditions. Whether you want to ski & snowboard, snowshoe, or soak in the views, this is the place to be. 

Snowshoeing to Glacier View at Mt. Rainier National Park

Hiking Stats:

  • 3 miles
  • 1,285 feet elevation gain
  • 2-3 hours round trip
a solo hiker heading towards mt. rainier
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Why it’s the best winter hike in Washington:

If it’s a clear day, you get straight-on views of Mount Rainier with no obstructions. You can see all the glaciers, ridgelines, and avalanche spots. You’re also privy to the jagged, snow-covered Tatoosh Rang. And, if you’re lucky, you might even have views of Mt. Adams, Mount St. Helens, and Mt. Hood. (These are more likely to be seen if you climb to Panorama Point.)

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Trail Report: Snowshoeing to Glacier View at Mount Rainier

We set out after putting on our winter hiking gear, considering it was 32 degrees with a windchill up top of around 20. 

This area is quite popular, so there are many initial trails to get you onto the mountain. You’ll have to navigate through the sea of unprepared people in tennis shoes mulling around the parking lot. 

But after two-tenths of a mile, you’ll have some freedom and ability to soak it all in. (For those who have hiked this in summer, you’re more or less following the trail up to Panorama Point.)

It’s a steep first mile, with most of the elevation gain happening there. And coming from Seattle, elevation zero, hiking at 5,000 feet makes you feel like a chum! But I felt so alive finally getting a chance to snowshoe in some good conditions with epic views. 

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

After 15 minutes, we rounded a bend, and BOOM, Mt. Rainier, with blue sky surrounding her, emerged. It was unbelievably stunning and stopped us in our tracks!

I couldn’t stop taking photos of Tahoma. In two hours, I took 270 pictures or so! 

As we continued trekking higher onto the mountain, the winds picked up. Gradual at first, and then it was whipping. It’s hard to estimate wind speed, but 35 mph might be a reasonable estimate. And with that much wind, the temperatures plummeted, likely in the low 20s at best. 

By the time we reached Glacier View, it was remarkable. Mount Rainier was shimmering in the sunlight, and I was giddy with excitement! We said “OMG” a few dozen times in shock at how dang pretty it all was.

Skiers and snowboarders were also whizzing past us, heading towards the parking lot after what I can only assume was an epic day on the Rainier slopes. 

As we were ogling at the views and skiers were bombing down, the skies were darkening to the east, and the wind was picking up. We also noticed it was getting later in the day (you have to leave the Paradise parking lot at 4:30pm to avoid getting locked out), so we couldn’t stay as long as we would have hoped. 

Our trek down to the car was uneventful, especially with clouds beginning to cover Rainier’s summit. When the photo views are less than ideal, it is funny how quickly you can hike down! 

Once in the car, we grabbed our thermos’ and enjoyed hot chocolate and tea while our limbs unfroze, thanks to the seat warmers. Thanks to this clear day, we got to experience the best winter hike in Washington!

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

In total, we drove five hours for just over two hours on the mountain. But when the sun and mountain are out, there’s no way you can pass up the opportunity. And with what unfolded for us, we were so happy we went! 

Photos from an Epic Snowshoeing Hike to Glacier View

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Things to do before you go up to Glacier View at Rainier

  • Talk to the ranger at the visitor center about avalanche conditions
  • Check weather forecast
  • Know when you must be down the mountain (the gate closes during the winter at 5pm, and we saw a car get stuck behind. Yikes!)
  • Have Chains – all vehicles, including 4×4/AWD, still have to carry chains
  • Ensure the road is open (if snow is heavy, it may not open at all)

Gear I recommend having:

When winter recreating, make sure you’re wearing the appropriate gear to stay safe. 

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside