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Mazama Ridge Snowshoe

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This is a wonderful trail for snowshoers of all tastes. Like to ‘shoe where there are great panoramic vistas of mountain peaks? No problem. Like trails with pretty local scenery? This one has some of the finest subalpine meadows and forests in the country, all blanketed in the deepest snow found in Washington. Want to watch other recreationists play? Snowboarders and telemark skiers love this trail, with its many open slopes on which they can practice their turns. Looking for a chance to see wildlife? In addition to the wide variety of avian life--from camp-robber and Stellar's jays to ravens and red-tailed hawks--snowshoe hares, red foxes, and a variety of small, scurrying beasts inhabit the forest fringes.

Snowshoers will also find that they are not bound by a specific trail on this route. Hiking up Mazama Ridge, they can amble off in any direction and pick their own paths through the deep snow of the meadows along the ridge crest. There is no finer place for snowshoers to enjoy the total freedom of movement that their ‘shoes afford them.

From near the guide service and ranger station buildings, climb the slope above the parking area and head off to the right, staying above Paradise Lodge, to enter the broad open meadows of the upper Paradise Valley. Staying above the roadway, cross Edith Creek on a wide footbridge, just above the ice-cloaked waterfalls. From the bridge, head due east, traversing around the head of Paradise Valley to approach the steep wall of Mazama Ridge at about 0.7 mile.

Start up the ridge, angling right (south) while climbing steeply for 0.5 mile to attain the ridge crest at 5700 feet. Cross to the eastern side of the crest for great views in that direction. Then turn right and follow the ridge south through thin stands of dwarf trees (their growth stunted by the howling winds that frequently scour this open ridge) and wide open meadows. Looking south, the multiple peaks of the Tatoosh Range--Pinnacle Peak, The Castle, Unicorn, Boundary Peak, and the rest--are visible as a jagged line against the sky. At the southern end of Mazama Ridge, near the 2.5-mile mark, look down onto Reflection and Louise Lakes and east along the deep cut of Stevens Canyon. To the north, Mount Rainier towers over it all.

To return, go north along the western edge of the ridge to meet the tracks you made along the eastern edge on your way in. Turn and follow those tracks back to Paradise.

Author’s Rating: More Difficult
Some previous snowshoe experience helpful. Some winter survival skills recommended (basic knowledge of avalanche evaluation, emergency shelter construction, etc.). Elevation gain is usually less than 1000 feet with a gradual slope.
Driving Directions:

To get there, drive east from Tacoma on State Route 7 and bear left onto SR 706 at the town of Elbe. Continue east through the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, and proceed up the plowed road to the Paradise Lodge parking area.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 44 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Mazama Ridge Snowshoe — Mar 15, 2014 — Curious George
Overnight
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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Me and a friend took four 12-14 year old Scouts on a snowshoe overnighter from Paradise parking lot ...
Me and a friend took four 12-14 year old Scouts on a snowshoe overnighter from Paradise parking lot down Paradise Rd across 4th? crossing and up to Mazama Ridge. I marked the approximate coordinates of our camping spot (not trailhead).
Saturday was nice weather, though overcast. Got sunburned off the snow still, which was weird. The trail is very strenuous in parts, 45 deg slopes, and we each fell and slid a few times. We each had sleds to tie our gear onto, which worked pretty well.

Once there, my son and I dug a snow cave to sleep in. It had 6 to 8 feet of snow above us, very sturdy, was very warm and quiet in the cave. The area is absolutely beautiful, with craggy peaks all around you. You could be in the Alps for all you know.

Some of the boys wished they had wool mittens instead of ski gloves, as the wool was warm when wet. Same for socks.

Saturday night it snowed 2 to 3 inches, and gently collapsed the tent that had out gear.

Sunday was windy with sleet, snow and rain to pack up and hike back in. I used my backpack and kept an empty sled on the way out, as I had more control in descending.

Second year I have done this trip - I love it.
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Mazama Ridge Snowshoe — Mar 09, 2014 — rbt76
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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This was my first trip to Mazama ridge, and although the weather was not totally ideal it was still ...
This was my first trip to Mazama ridge, and although the weather was not totally ideal it was still a great day. Route finding is a little challenging on this one (or at least I fount it challenging). We started out from the Paradise parking lot, heading northeast on the Paradise Valley Route which is wide and flat. Right after the bridge at "4th Crossing" we headed steeply up the hill, still headed northeast, keeping the creek on our left. After about .5 miles it flattened out before becoming veering to the right away from the creek and becoming quite steep up to Mazama ridge. We then headed southwest along the ridge for quite a ways (probably about 2 miles), following ski and snowshoe tracks. Eventually we followed the ridge gradually down to inspiration saddle where pole markers lead the way back to turn off to Narada falls and then back to Paradise.

I felt reasonably confident we were headed in the right direction most of the day, but the pole markers and a couple of tips from a Mt. Rainier backcountry volunteer we happened to meet were definitely helpful. I'm hoping to head back one day when the weather is better- I'm sure there are great views.

The snow is very wet and sticky right now, and is slow going because we were postholing at times, even with snowshoes on. Be careful of avalanche chutes and cornices in this area. Although the Mazama ridge route does not really take you through very dangerous areas per se, you could wander into dangerous territory if you took a wrong turn.
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Mazama Ridge Snowshoe — Jan 20, 2014 — shermj
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail
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A picture perfect day for snowshoeing. The temperature was very warm, near 50 degrees with bright s...
A picture perfect day for snowshoeing. The temperature was very warm, near 50 degrees with bright sunshine. The snow was crusty and then beginning to soften during the afternoon. Follow the unplowed road (Paradise Valley) from Paradise Inn to the 4th wand to begin the ascent up the ridge. I suggest that you cross the creek first via the road and then immediately begin to climb up the ridge. The creek is in close proximity to the 4th wand. There are limited safe crossings to cross the creek. Enjoy!
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Mazama Ridge Snowshoe — Jan 20, 2014 — Natasha'n'Boris
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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Another trip report for Mazama, with a slightly different route, and a big thanks to Chuck for the r...
Another trip report for Mazama, with a slightly different route, and a big thanks to Chuck for the report reminding everyone to just get out, and not put life off for tomorrow! The inversion is depressing enough in the lowlands that I seriously thought about sitting home and cleaning house on the holiday, when it was sunny and lovely in the mountains. Chuck, you saved my day!

The traffic was light both directions for a holiday weekend, and road conditions were great. The fog lifted around Alder Lake, with clear skies.

I arrived about 5 minutes after gate opening and got a parking spot in Paradise with ease (I use the overnight parking to avoid the crazy in the main lot later in the day). I took off down the icy, hard snow on the road in my boots- snowshoes ended up getting carried all day even when it warmed. I cut up into the basin on the first worn trail out of curiosity, figuring I could back out if needed. The trail wanders through the woods along the creek, passing a summer trail bridge with a towering blob of snow I wouldn't dare try to cross, and then finds an easy crossing to meet the "main" snowshoe highway climbing the moderate part of the ridge.

The snow is very hard and crusty, working well for climbing if you've got traction (my heavy boots have great bite in marginal snow, so I didn't use snowshoes). The compacted, slick route isn't as great on the way down, so it's best to find untracked snow and plunge-step. Untracked snow is running out now, with the lack of new snow and popularity of the route.

A couple that had been on the trail caught up with me as I was taking pictures at the ridge. We swapped cameras to get each other's pictures with Rainier as a backdrop, and they gave me tips on great snow camps on the ridge. I walked with them north to the Stevens-Van Trump memorial and then just kept wandering. The part of the ridge to the east has great views of Adams and Helens (though watch the cornices and stay back from the edge). The basin is lovely undulating hills under ridges that have little snow, but still avalanche slabs here and there.

There were very few people on the ridge, making it a peaceful and dreamy sort of wander. I saw some folks on the Skyline trail above, a couple skiers here and there, and of course, the cheerful and helpful folks that pointed me toward the basin.

The parking lot was absolutely crammed when I left, with a line of vehicles waiting for my spot. Amazing, considering how quiet it was on the ridge!
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Mazama Ridge Snowshoe — Jan 18, 2014 — chuck
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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We arrived just as the Longmire gate was opening so we got up to Paradise before the crowds. It was ...
We arrived just as the Longmire gate was opening so we got up to Paradise before the crowds. It was a perfect beautiful sunny warm day for a snowshoe trip. We usually do these trips on Sundays but I hear there is a football game we should probably watch tomorrow. Just get out and do it because the idea of doing it tomorrow never comes.




    
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mazama4 hiking queen.jpg
Photo by Janelle Walker.
Location
Mt. Rainier -- SE - Longmire / Paradise
Mount Rainier National Park
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain 900 ft
Highest Point 5700 ft
Features
Lakes
Mountain views
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails (Nelson & Bauer - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails: Mount Rainier East No. 270,
Paradise No. 270S

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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