Winter Access Expanded for Mount Rainier’s Paradise Area

Mount Rainier National Park announced this week that staff will provide additional weekday road access from Longmire to Paradise beginning Nov 15 for the upcoming 2023-2024 season. Learn more about how the Park has met some of their staffing needs and what to expect at Paradise this winter.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
November 09, 2023
Winter Access Expanded for Mount Rainier’s Paradise Area

The Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park offers an unparalleled outdoor experience and is an integral landscape for Mountaineers programs and activities. Last winter looked a little different on the mountain, as the Park restricted weekday access to Paradise through the Longmire gate. We heard from many in our community about the closure, and we shared your concerns. Over the last year, The Mountaineers and several of our partners have engaged with Park leadership around the decision to limit access for the 2022-2023 winter season.

Expanded Access to Paradise for  2023-2024 Winter Season

With winter recreation already underway at Mount Rainier, we’re happy to share that Park staff announced this week that they anticipate providing additional road access from Longmire to Paradise for the 2023-2024 winter recreation season. Beginning Nov 15, the Park will expand winter public vehicle access to the Paradise area to five days per week, on a Thursday through Monday schedule. The annual shift to nightly closures of the Paradise gate began on Nov 8.

The Park has increased and reorganized staff and resources to provide more public access to Paradise compared to last year, when it was only able to open the road on weekends as weather permitted. Their goal is to keep access to Paradise open for extended weekends and the five federal holidays this winter, when visitation is typically at its highest.

Ongoing staffing challenges mean the road will be closed to public access Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Park is still in the process of hiring additional winter staff, and they will revisit the Paradise access schedule should staffing levels change during the season. Visitor and staff safety will continue to be the Park’s top priority.

Increased weekday access to Paradise is welcome news for The Mountaineers and the wider recreation community, but inclement weather and other challenges may limit Park staff’s ability to consistently provide access to Paradise five days per week. Mount Rainier National Park is continuing to recruit more staff and volunteers in hopes of further expanding winter vehicle access to Paradise. 

Ongoing Staffing Challenges

The primary challenge leading to reduced winter access is not a lack of funding, but rather a lack of staffing. In our meetings with Park leadership, they shared that it requires 26 staff positions to open the road for winter access, and they were unable to fill half of those positions prior to the start of the 2022-2023 winter season. These vacancies are representative of the Park’s larger hiring challenges. Mount Rainier National Park typically experiences a ten percent vacancy rate for staff positions, but 30 percent of all positions were open and unfilled last winter.

Earlier this year, the Park told us they had met about three quarters of their current hiring needs for winter operations, filling open utilities and custodial positions and hiring new road crew members. To help address road crew hiring needs, the Park launched a new partnership with nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord to develop an internship program.

Know Before You Go

As of now, the Paradise gate will open to visitors during daylight hours Thursday through Monday as weather and operations allow. Winter recreation access in the rest of the park remains unchanged, and the Longmire area will remain open seven days a week barring any major weather events or emergency situations.

Winter camping at Paradise will be available Thursday through Sunday nights only, as conditions permit. Sledding at Paradise will not open for the 2023-2024 winter season as available staff members will be focused on plowing roads and parking lots to maintain access to Paradise.

Visitors are encouraged to keep apprised of road operating status via the Park’s website and Twitter feed. Mount Rainier National Park offers outdoor enthusiasts a plethora of alternate destinations to Paradise, and there are several winter recreation areas the public can enjoy outside the park boundary in Ashford and surrounding areas.

Continue to Share Your Feedback

We appreciate how passionately our community cares for Mount Rainier and the special winter recreation experiences it provides. We continue to approach our conversations with Park leadership in the spirit of partnership, and will stay abreast of Park hiring and efforts to expand full winter access to the Paradise area.

We’ll share what we hear from the Park moving forward, but in the meantime, please continue to share your feedback with us by emailing Superintendent Greg Dudgeon and Deputy Superintendent Kevin Skerl also want to hear directly from you. You’re encouraged to reach out to them to share your concerns and questions.

Thank you for recreating responsibly and doing all you can to care for the winter wonderland of Mount Rainier this season.