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Best Winter Trips: Mt. Rainer National Park, Washington

The granddaddy of the Cascades looms above Seattle like a great white beacon for snow junkies. The mountain's 25 major glaciers hold enough ice to bury Manhattan 150 feet deep, and some of the planet's highest recorded snowfalls guarantee powder for all. Paradise, the park's winter epicenter, has year-round road access.
 kirkendall-mtrainier-445x260.jpgLay fresh tracks in a winter wonderland around Rainier.

» Snowshoe/XC Ski Short treks from Paradise offer sprawling views of Rainier’s ice-encrusted flanks, where dark rock wedges poke out like shark fins. The 1.1-mile loop to Nisqually Vista overlooks the toe of the Nisqually Glacier to Rainier’s often cloudy summit. Or head toward Alta Vista on a 2.3-mile out-and-back to Glacier Vista.

» Ski Skin 4.5 miles up low-angle slopes to snowbound Camp Muir at 10,188 feet, and look back on sweeping slopes dusted with knee-deep virgin powder (best bet: April). Drop in and descend the Muir Snowfield—nearly a vertical mile between the Nisqually and Paradise-Stevens Glaciers—before arriving back at your car.

» Mountaineer Winter winds ripping across the summit cone of 14,411-foot Mt. Rainier scour glaciers down to concrete-hard ice. Rope up and stomp a crampon into the Ingraham Direct or Gibraltar Ledges Routes. From Camp Muir, the Ingraham Direct route beelines four miles up 45-degree slopes to Columbia Crest, weaving around crevasses that hang open like blue, gaping maws. The Gibraltar Ledges, the standard winter route, has a rocky and exposed crux-traverse across the face of Gibraltar Rock at 12,700 feet.

» Resources Annual climbing pass ($30) and backcountry permit (free) are required on summit bids; obtain them at the Wilderness Information Center; nps.gov/mora. Get weather info at atmos.washington.edu/data/rainier_report.htm. Guides and gear Whittaker Mountaineering in Ashford, WA; whittakermountaineering.com

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