We started 2020 snowshoeing outside Vancouver, B.C., and are bringing it to a close with snowshoeing in Mt. Rainier National Park!
We arrived at Longmire around 10 a.m. to snow, clouds, and relatively few people. We tend to start our hikes much earlier in the morning, but we were at the mercy of the Longmire General Store snowshoe rental’s operating hours this time. We rented a couple pairs and headed 15 minutes up the road toward Paradise to the Comet Falls trailhead. There’s limited parking, but surprisingly there were only three cars parked when we arrived so we didn’t have any trouble finding a spot.
Many people had pulled over to put on their chains but we didn’t need them driving from Longmire to the trailhead – the road was a little wet but not slippery. We saw at least three snowplows pass by and they weren’t calling for additional snow so we left our chains in the trunk, pulled on our snowshoes, and set off into the woods.
As it turned out, we put on our snowshoes a little prematurely. The first section of trail under tree cover had some slushy snow and sections that were completely free of snow – just wet/muddy. We passed two couples heading back to the parking area right away so for quite some time, we had the trail completely to ourselves.
Once we started to come out from under the tree cover and onto the exposed trail through the snowfields our snowshoes came in very handy!
A couple sections of trail had been covered by mini avalanches – it was a little precarious crossing over the snow piles along the side of the mountain, but thanks to our snowshoes and poles we were able to safely navigate back to the trail.
As we made our way along the side of the mountain, the sun started to break through and spots of blue sky started to appear.
We lost the trail at one point but thankfully two more knowledgeable hikers had caught up to us, and we were able to follow their lead the rest of the way to Comet Falls!
We had to cross a sketchy log bridge over a river featuring its own small waterfall to get there, but cresting the small hill to the views of the waterfall across the open valley were well worth it.
The 300-foot, single drop waterfall was beautiful lit up by the sunshine and surrounded by all of the snow. We hiked a bit closer to the falls but didn’t go all the way to the viewpoint right next to them – the actual trail was inaccessible and the trail some brave souls had broken through to a version of the viewpoint was not easy to navigate.
As we admired the falls from afar, snow started cracking and falling with the water, smashing into the pool below. While it was nice seeing the falls in the sunshine, as things continued to warm up, snow started to melt and fall all around us, including from the tree branches overhead. We were pretty soaked by the time we returned to the car!
We made quick work of our hike back to the trailhead and ended up switching out of our snowshoes about a third of the way from the car because so much of the snow on the trail had turned to slushy ice. Our ice trekkers were much better suited to those trail conditions!
Brian’s Gaia app clocked us in at 3.6 miles, 1,204 feet of gain and 3.25 hours roundtrip with 55 minutes of stopped time. I’d like to say all of the stopped time was due to admiring the falls, changing footwear, and navigating around obstacles, but I have to admit some of the steep ascents required rest breaks to drink water too. As one of the other sets of hikers were encountered reminded us – it’s not a race!
Back at Longmire while Brian was returning our snowshoes, I was able to marvel at Mt. Rainier, which had broken through the clouds and was towering over the General Store and Longmire Inn.
It was wonderful being out in the snow on such a beautiful day, and I think we’re officially sold on needing to purchase snow shoes moving forward. We’ll be able to explore more trails with them in winter, and we won’t be beholden to the rental facility operating hours to start our hikes.
Loved spending our snowy Sunday doin’ some shoein’!