Cross-Country Skiing -- There are several ungroomed cross-country trails around the Paradise and Longmire areas. Perhaps equally satisfying in winter is the absence of crowds and cars that haunt these regions during the summer months. Peace and quiet abound when snow covers the landscape, although there is often a threat of avalanches (check at the Jackson Visitor Center or Paradise Ranger Station). The slopes above the Paradise Inn usually stay covered with snow well into June. You can rent cross-country skis at Longmire at the National Park Inn (tel. 360/569-2411; www.mtrainierguestservices.com). Skis, poles, and shoes will cost you about $20 per day.
West of the park, the Mount Tahoma Trails Association trail system maintains 50 miles of easy to difficult trails and a large network of backcountry huts, which are accessible from Ashford (follow signs to the snow parks). For information, maps, or hut reservations, contact the Mount Tahoma Trails Association, P.O. Box 206, Ashford, WA 98304 (tel. 360/569-2451; www.skimtta.com), or stop by headquarters in Ashford, which is usually open on winter weekends. There are about 10 miles of trails at White Pass (tel. 509/672-3101; www.skiwhitepass.com), about 20 miles southeast of the park. There are also 45 downhill runs served by eight lifts here.
Outside the northeast entrance of the park, downhill resort Crystal Mountain ski area (tel. 360/663-2265; www.skicrystal.com) offers 50 runs on 2,600 acres served by 12 lifts (including the Mt. Rainier Gondola), and good backcountry skiing. Only experienced skiers should attempt backcountry skiing here due to the difficult conditions and danger of avalanches.
Snowmobiling -- Snowmobiles are permitted on designated roadways, and only when snow closes the roadways to normal traffic. Do not attempt to travel cross-country on trails or on undesignated roads. Obtain a copy of the park's snowmobile regulations.
Snowshoeing -- If you've never tried snowshoeing and want to, visit Mount Rainier National Park when free, ranger-led snowshoe walks lasting about 90 minutes are offered, on winter weekends and holidays from late December to early April. You can rent snowshoes at Longmire at the National Park Inn (tel. 360/569-2411; www.mtrainierguestservices.com) for about $15 a day.
One of the better snowshoeing options in the park is the marked route from the Paradise parking lot behind the Jackson Visitor Center to the Nisqually Glacier Overlook. The Nisqually Vista Trail is only 1.25 miles long and twists and turns as it meanders up and down hills. At the turnaround, you have a great view of the glacier and the rest of the mountain, but don't get too close to the edge!
Lower down on the mountain, at Longmire, snowshoers can make a 4.6-mile loop up Rampart Ridge. This steep trail requires some route finding and the snow level is not always reliable, but if conditions are right, it makes for an enjoyable and rigorous hike. Another good snowshoeing trail in this same area is the trail to Carter Falls, which starts above Longmire just before the Cougar Rock Campground. This 2.2-mile round-trip trail follows a section of the Wonderland Trail. It's all uphill to Carter Falls, and it crosses several avalanche chutes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.