Government shutdown access to Mt Rainier and Olympic National Park

In the last couple of weeks I wrote about winter day trips to Mt Rainier and Olympic National Park, which turned out to be bad timing now that the government is in partial shutdown effecting the national parks, including these two. I wanted to provide a bit of an update for government shutdown access to Mt Rainier and Olympic National Park based on the information available today (Friday, January 4th, 2019). As a reminder, there are no services, no ranger programs, no restrooms, no trash pickup and no maintenance of any kind in the parks right now until the government reopens. This means that if you choose to enter, you must be completely self sufficient including having a plan for packing out your poop! Seriously, this is important. To do this you can either pack it out, or bury it in a cathole 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from trails or water sources (bring a trowel for this purpose). If this isn’t something you can handle, don’t enter the parks until the shutdown is over and visitor services including restrooms are reopened. You will also need to make a plan to pack out all your trash as there is no garbage collection. You’ll need food and water as none are available. Be ready to change your plans if a tree is down over the road or other winter hazards that would normally be taken care of by maintenance employees. All visitor centers are closed, and websites are not being updated and social media is not being monitored during the shutdown, so they will not be updated with current road conditions.

Government shutdown access to mt rainier and olympic national park
Gate on Highway 410 on the east side of Mt Rainier National Park at the Crystal mountain turnoff. This area is always gated and without services in winter and makes for a fabulous ski or snowshoe outing.

Mt Rainier National Park

The most critical thing is that the road to Paradise is closed for the duration of the shutdown. There is no access to Paradise at all. The road to Longmire has so far been open, I would suggest calling the National Park Inn to ensure this before going. The trails in the Longmire area may be open (unless trees are down across them).

The other roads in the park are always closed and without services in the winter, so if you want to visit Mt Rainier during the shutdown, I would suggest going for a ski or snowshoe along highway 410 at the Crystal Mountain road turnoff, where the road is always gated in the winter. You will need a Washington State Sno park pass to park here. It’s a picturesque journey through the forest and along the White River. Because it’s a closed road, it’s plenty wide for you to go next to another person. Leave no Trace principles here are always critical as this area is not maintained during the winter. Mowich Lake is another outing that is also without services during the winter (although the pit toilet is normally open and won’t be during the shutdown) and is a great snowshoe or ski option for a longer outing (it also involves driving on a gravel road with lots of potholes!).

Olympic National Park

In addition to the government shutdown, Olympic National Park experienced a couple of major windstorms in mid December which closed some roads (which haven’t reopened as there is no maintenance in the parks right now) so most places are not accessible, including Hurricane Ridge, the Port Angeles Visitor Center, the Hoh Visitor Center and the road to the Hoh (downed trees from recent storms) as well as the Queets Rainforest and Rialto Beach. Highway 101 which encircles and at times passes through the park is open as it is a major highway maintained by other agencies.

If you want to head to Olympic National Park during the shutdown, the best places to go at the moment would be Kalaloch beach, Second Beach and Third Beach, as well as Marymere Falls near Lake Crescent. I’ll update this if I’m able to find any information about Lake Quinalt I’ll update it here.

This government shutdown is an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of National Park service maintenance and interpretation staff and how their work and our tax dollars make it possible to have adventures in these amazing places! Write and call your members of congress and demand reopening of the government so the parks can reopen with the staff and services they need (and many other hardworking federal employees who are unexpectedly without a paycheck during this time).

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Jennie Flaming
Jennie Thwing Flaming, Chief Adventure Officer: Jennie's life has been a continual quest for adventure (of the non-adrenalin inducing kind) from birth till now. Professionally, she pursues adventures in teaching, counseling and working to obliterate institutional racism for students in our region's public schools and also works as a tour and hiking guide. Previous professional adventures include working in schools in Seattle and Alaska, leading tours and managing tour guides and presenting traveling science shows and lessons with Pacific Science Center. She believes in sharing her beloved Pacific Northwest home with visitors. She likes to be outdoors and spend time with the people she loves. Jennie is born and raised in Seattle and has also lived in Alaska and the Netherlands.