Seasons & Climate
Summer is the warmest and driest time of the year, with frequent fog banks rolling in late and early in the day, and temperatures ranging from the upper 40s to the low 80s (10s to mid-20s Celsius). The spring and fall are cool and drizzly, with occasional days of warm weather late in the spring and early in the fall. The greatest rainfall comes in January and December, with daytime temperatures in the 40s (10s Celsius). Weather generally gets colder and nastier the higher up you go, and there is lots of snow in the higher elevations. This snow can linger well into the summer, even at popular Paradise.
It's important that you dress in layers for a day visit, when you may encounter any type of weather. It can go from warm to cool very quickly as you climb in altitude. Rain can come in suddenly, so rain gear is a good precaution.
Avoiding the Crowds
On a sunny summer weekend, it is sometimes necessary to park more than a mile from Paradise and walk on forest trails and the road to the meadows. You can avoid the crowds by visiting in the spring or fall. Keep in mind that, in May, Paradise and Sunrise will still be snow-covered and most park roads will be closed; weather may still be unsettled. Even in June, Paradise may remain snow-covered and some park roads may be closed. Also, the rainy season starts in mid- to late October and continues until early summer.
Perhaps the best tip, if you're traveling in busy months, is to visit on weekdays rather than weekends. You might also consider avoiding the Sunrise and Paradise areas altogether, heading instead to the more remote sections of the park, such as the Carbon River area in the northwest section, or the Denman Falls/Gobblers Knob area in the southwest. Both are accessible, at least part of the way, by car, and they provide the same sorts of stunning vistas you get at Sunrise and Paradise. The Carbon River Road is subject to flood closures; check with park staff. The Westside Road, which leads to the Denman Falls area (open summer only), is closed due to flood damage 3 miles up, so you will have to do some hiking. Be sure to check at the ranger station for the latest info.
Otherwise, a good plan is to arrive at either Sunrise or Paradise early in the day -- before 10am -- spend an hour checking out the visitor center, and then high-tail it out to a trail. Likewise, people generally leave the park between 4 and 6pm, so if you can arrange to arrive at a visitor center around 5pm (with the idea of staying put for an hour or so), you can avoid a lot of the traffic.
Finally, you might try reversing this advice, hitting Sunrise at sundown. Most park visitors are leaving through the Nisqually Entrance in the park's southwest corner late in the day; you'll be heading in the opposite direction.
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.