In a recent post we explored a quiet side of Mt Rainier to visit in the winter, the area near Chinook Pass where the road is closed. Today, we will head to the north side of the park to an excellent winter or spring destination, Mowich Lake. Mowich Lake Mt Rainier in winter gives an entry to the beauty of the parks forests and wilderness, although this route does not have views of the mountain (if the conditions suitable to walking on the trail around the lake to the left when you arrive, there are views of the mountain from that trail).
Mowich Lake is an excellent year round destination but today we will focus on a spring visit. Many winters (such as this one) the snow blocks the road too far away, but usually by April you can get close enough to the road closure gate for a delightful day trip on snowshoes or skis. You will be snowshoeing or skiing on the Mowich Lake road, which is open to the lake in the summer and the site of some fantastic trails to cover in another post. Be sure to check both the park service road status website and the WTA hiker’s guide to get a sense of where you can park and where the snow is.
It’s about 5 miles from the gate to the lake, but you can take a shortcut on a trail on the right called the Grindstone trail (which can be hard to spot, look for the blue reflector, the sign will likely be covered in snow) about 3 miles along. If you’re skiing, definitely stick with the road but for snowshoers it can be a nice shortcut.
Once at the lake, there’s an open area (summer walk up campground) which makes a great spot to have a picnic with a view of the lake.
April picnic at Mowich Lake
I’ve never seen anyone else there except whoever I was traveling with, a rare treat on Mt Rainier! Use caution however, this is a very isolated area with no cell phone signal and no services for a long distance. Make sure to bring your 10 essentials, being especially mindful of extra clothing and food in the winter.
It turns out that on my winter and spring visits, I’ve always been there on cloudy or foggy days, but there is an impressive view of Mt Rainier if you walk around the lake a short distance to the left (do not walk ON the lake!) on the edge of the Wonderland Trail.
Here’s a summer picture of Mt Rainier from the Tolmie Peak Trail (trailhead at Mowich lake, great summer trail) with Mowich Lake in the foreground.