SNOWSHOE; note the directions for this hike on WTA are for the non-snow, hike on dirt route. Friday, March 12 was indeed a bluebird day at Mt Rainier NP. Arrived at Nisqually entry gate at 9:15 am, no line, affirmed to Ranger-yup we had tire chains on board. It is a worthwhile stop at Longmire Wilderness Information Center to pick up a winter map (see photo below) and get current deets on avalanche risk. Wise ranger said “make your route decision on your skill level and avalanche risk tolerance level”.
Pulled into last parking slot at Narada Falls, upon return 4 hours later more cars had neatly parked in rows with plenty of pull out space for all. Noted separate marked row for overnighters.
Found the icey, snow steps next to the bathroom leading up to an orange pole and orange sign for Narada Falls Trail. Watched a bit nervously as some snowshoers and skiers picked their way through the avalanche debris slope below Inspiration Point. That’s above my avy risk tolerance.
Easy to follow the orange poles thru the snowy forest to Stevens Canyon Road. Trail is getting compacted, some others had microspikes, most had snowshoes as we did. As soon as you step out of the trough, you sink ~4 inches with snowshoes on. So if powder is what you want, just walk outside of the deepening trough. Hit the Stevens Canyon Road then cut straight thru the trees to meet it again as it doubled back on itself. Like most others, we headed up and over Mazama Ridge, and not southward on Stevens Canyon Rd as that winds around avy prone Inspiration Point. More orange poles to follow, thanks Rangers!!
Views of Tahoma grow larger as you climb up and top out on Mazama Ridge and pass the junction to Mazama Ridge Trail (in summer High Lakes Trail). We descended quickly through the snow draped fir forest and marshmallowy pocket meadows on the Lakes Trail to the shores of snow covered Reflection Lake.
WOW. With the toothy Tatoosh Range to the south, snow covered Reflection Lake, and looming Tahoma it was tough to decide which view to put your back to.
Yes it was a bluebird day, but it was the Canada (Gray) Jay’s that welcomed us to lunch spot. Watch how you hold your sandwich! Please do not feed these darling, cute little beggars. A pair of blue Stellar Jays did grace us with a fly-by. We did not venture out onto the frozen lake, and were glad to see that the snowshoer who had, fortunately made it to the other side per their tracks.
We wandered east as far as the overlook to Lake Louise and watched some folks up on Pinnacle Glacier-wowsa. All too soon it was time to head back for the return up/over/down Mazama Ridge.
Misc Info: Other hikers 24ish---all well spread out. You cannot get down to see Narada Falls at this time. Gates to Paradise at Longmire close at 5 PM.
No Girl Scouts yet our our hikes; all in person programming still on hold. Meanwhile, they are busy out doing porch deliveries of Girl Scout cookies!!