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Trip Report

Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground, Carter Falls — Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022

Mount Rainier Area
Rainier view from Nisqually

In case you’ve not been paying attention, the road from Longmire to Paradise is only open on the weekends this season (weather permitting).  The Park itself is open as normal, however, and there are some great trails out of Longmire of which you can take advantage.

Got to Longmire a little before 9AM. The roads and parking lot were clear of snow, though the sidewalks were icy. On the way out the trees had dropped some snow/ water on the road which had frozen, so watch out for icy patches even on nice days!

Bathroom was clean and well stocked.  There’s only cold water at the faucet; be prepared to warm you hands after washing.

I wound up using a moisture wicking base layer, long sleeve shirt, and rain jacket over the course of the day. Had a puffy in my bag but I never felt the need to put it on (I tend to run warm).  Hands got colder than usual for some reason, for all that I had two pairs of gloves. Thankfully also had handwarmers to get them warmed back up.

The nice thing about this trail is you can go as far as you have the time/ desire/ ability/ daylight and there are several wonderful things to see along the way. At the Nisqually Crossing (about 1.8 miles from Longmire) there’s a fantastic view of Rainier.  If you make it to Carter Falls (about 3 miles from Longmire), I’d strongly suggest continuing on about 325 feet to Madcap Falls, which I think is a prettier falls (shorter than Carter, but not obscured by trees). You can even continue on to Narada Falls or Paradise, though please keep in mind the shorter days we have right now. And please do make sure you're supplied with at least the 10 essentials (plus winter layers, etc) - even for 'short' hikes.

From Longmire to Madcap falls (a little past Carter Falls) the trail was packed solid today. I used spikes as I had them and like extra traction in snow, but I saw several people without them. I’d be careful of the slopes into/ out of the Nisqually River Valley, as they are a bit steep, but otherwise it’s a mostly gradual grade.  Also watch out for the frozen in postholes that are immediately adjacent to (occasionally inside) the trail; you could easily break an ankle with a misstep.

After Madcap the snow got sloppy.  If I’d brought my snowshoes I would have put them on at this point as I tend to roll my ankle in sloppy snow.  After the third time I postholed up to my knee (around Paradise Creek Camp) I decided I’d had enough so I turned around and made my way back to Longmire, stopping for some tea on a dead tree trunk near the Nisqually River and enjoying the great view of Rainier.

There were three trees down across the trail but all were easier to get under or around. I saw eight people on the trail today; all but one on my way out. 

Bridge over Nisqually
Madcap Falls
Fantastic Forest!
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