Opening date: January 18th, 2014
Families looking for fun winter activities in Mt Rainier National Park, such as sledding and snowshoeing, can bundle up and head to the Snowplay Area at Paradise. Open during weekends and school breaks in winter, the Snowplay Area is the one established place in the park where sledding is permitted.
From the upper parking lot, you'll need to walk up a short hill to the Snowplay Area above the historic Paradise Inn and the newly remodeled Jackson Visitor Center. There you'll see folks of all ages zooming down the runs in plastic sleds, saucers and inner tubes. For safety, no hard toboggans or runner sleds are allowed.
With our bright yellow sled in hand, my husband, son, and I lined up at the top of the two runs. Our son Finn, two years old, enjoyed his first time sledding. He laughed with delight as we sped down the run, several hundred feet in length. On the run beside us a group of teenagers cheered each another on.
Tired of sledding? Then you can sign up at the Jackson Visitors Center for a two-hour, ranger-guided snowshoe hike. Moderately strenuous, this hike is great for beginners and families. While only adults and kids eight years and older can sign up, the rangers will allow you to bring younger children in front or back carriers. Dress them very warmly, rangers say, for little ones will get very cold because they aren't moving. Folks can borrow snowshoes from the visitor center for a $4 per-pair donation.
Apres Sledding/Snowshoeing... After your sled runs or snowshoeing, you and your family can stow your gear and head over to the visitor center cafeteria for a hearty lunch and warm beverages. Note: Paradise Inn, built in 1916, is closed from October to May.
Some fine print... There is a National Park Service entrance fee for visitors to drive up to Longmire and Paradise. Go here for current information on park fees and passes. And click here for lodging options in the Mt. Rainier area.
- Carrie Uffindell