Snow blocks many trails as Washington’s summer hiking season begins

Last weekend a A stream of Mount Rainier National Park visitors stopped at the crest of Chinook Pass, east of the mountain, and asked around, “Where is the Tipsoo Lake trailhead?” Skiers who had just descended from the jagged peak of Naches, carving snow to their parked cars, generally gestured past the highway’s shoulder-high snow berm toward the all-white landscape beyond. of the. “It’s under there.”

Summer may be here with a bang – hello, sunshine – but a year of high snowfall means many high-altitude destinations aren’t yet ready for dry-land hikers. White matter can mean anything from discomfort to serious risk.

“When people encounter snowy areas, they won’t be able to see the trail. Getting lost is a definite possibility,” says Terry Wildy, chief of interpretation, education and volunteers at Mount Rainier National Park. Rangers call this season “the melt,” and as streams flow under the last, old layer of snow, it can dig in from below and create nature’s trapdoor.

Wildy recommends trails that start at a lower elevation – favorites include Trail of the Shadows in Longmire, Kautz Creek Trail near the park’s main entrance, and Silver Falls Trail at the south end of the park. A visit to Paradise and a meal at the historic Paradise Inn are not out of place; the road is free for all cars, but as webcams show, its famous wildflower meadows are still in their Frozen arrange. On June 17, the park reported that Paradise’s snow depth was nearly 120 inches, or 154 percent of normal.

As the MRNP updates trail conditions on its website, there are thousands more trails across the Northwest just waiting for summer hikers. Those venturing can check websites like the Washington Trails Association for recent trip reports, which will describe conditions and may even include photos. Generally anything below elevation will be plowed, but very full streams and tree blowouts can be a hazard on less used routes. Let the word “alpine” in a trail description be a sign that snow experience is likely required.

Earlier in the month The Seattle Times reported that 40% of city residents hiked in the past year, up from 25% in 2010. King County Metro launched its Trailhead Direct summer service to provide transit to some favorites of North Bend. The constant crowds of hikers can mean crowded trails and permits required in some areas, but even when the remaining snowdrifts block some routes, there are still hundreds of trails to explore.

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