If there’s one thing that’s been on my bucket list for our entire time at JBLM, it’s been spending a winter day in the snow in Mt. Rainier National Park. While we’ve done numerous spring, summer, and fall hikes in that area, including Emmons Moraine and Naches Peak Loop, we’ve yet to visit the park in the snow. Well, we changed all that this past weekend – finally! The forecast by JBLM has been abysmal the past week and a half, and with rain in the forecast for the whole weekend, we figured it was the perfect time to try snowshoeing at Myrtle Falls! So, we packed up the night before, prepared to bundle up, and went to hit some fresh powder.
Snowshoeing at Myrtle Falls
I got a lot of questions on my instagram about whether or not we have snowshoes and how we thought the boys would do. First and foremost, no, we actually don’t have snowshoes. We decided to rent because this would be our first time as an entire family trying snowshoeing together. In regard to the boys; we’re very much the school of thought that our boys do well when we give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and though they’ve never snowshoed before, we figured they have to start somewhere!
Since we don’t own snowshoes, we knew we needed to rent near or in the park. We found a place in Ashford that rents gear, as well as provides guided expeditions, but we also found a cheaper place just inside the Paradise entrance to the park that rents snowshoes, as well – and offers a military discount. Longmire General Store is about five minutes inside the park, resides in a petite log cabin, and snowshoe rentals for both kids and adults for the day, which is exactly what we needed.
We bundled up, parked in the third lower lot because the two upper lots were full (they fill up fast), and put on our snowshoes! We actually rented poles for the kids, hoping they’d help, but all four of the children did better without poles than with them. So, after about 15 minutes, we took them, and Tony strapped them to his pack so we could continue.
Myrtle Falls is far more spectacular in the summer months. The footbridge is clear, the water cascades down from the mountain, and the wildflowers are abundant. In the thick snowpack and snow covering, we couldn’t actually see much of the falls, but the views of Rainier are bar none, and the experience was 100% worth it. The pseudo trail wasn’t easy to find, but we traversed up first, then crossed the waterfall trail over to the footbridge, and we managed to find the perfect spot to play and make snow angels at the top. Want to try snowshoeing at Myrtle Falls yourself? Here’s what you need to know…
Snowshoeing Paradise, Mt. Rainier
Trail Length: This is short! It’s only about 1 mile roundtrip if you go the most direct route.
Level of Difficulty: The Myrtle Falls hike, itself, is easy, though it’s a climb. Snowshoeing definitely makes it a bit more challenging, and if you’ve never done it before, you will feel it in your butt and your calves. The other more challenging element is crossing the footbridge. In the winter, the snow is packed high above the bridge, and it’s down to one very narrow strip of snowpack. You will need to go across single file to make it to the other side, which can be challenging with kids.
Cost: You need an America the Beautiful pass for National parks. An annual pass online is $80, or you can show your military/dependent ID at the gate for a free annual pass.
Parking: There are three lots for the paradise area, but they fill up fast all year long. If you hope to park in the top lot, you’ll have to be there no later than about 9 AM. The third lot was almost completely full at 11 AM when we finally arrived.
Dog-Friendly: No; dogs aren’t allowed on national park grounds.
Tips: Wear layers! If you hope to rent snowshoes at Longmire General Store, call early and inquire as to availability, as they do rent out, and the store’s capacity is just 8 people right now with COVID. I recommend sunglasses, as well, as the sun on the snow is tricky, and there is zero cover in the winter.