8 Winter Secrets near Northwest TrekIt's no secret that the Mt. Rainier area - including Northwest Trek - sees a lot of its visitors in the sunny months of Northwest summer.
But our staff are here year-round. Many of us live nearby. And so we know that winter is the really magical time to visit - a time of rushing rivers and wild bald eagles, of sledding spots and scrumptious treats.
We've made a list of our eight favorite Winter Secrets for visiting the Rainier area. Combine a trip to Trek with just a couple of them, and you'll have the perfect winter adventure.
1. Beat the Crowds to ParadiseHeading up to Paradise for sledding or snowshoeing? Avoid the crazy parking lot crowds by getting up there early (the gate opens at 9 am, but check road status on Twitter.)
Then head back down to spend the afternoon at Trek - our last tram tour leaves at 3 pm, and the park is open for another 90 minutes.)
NOTE: During federal government shutdowns, the park is closed.
2. Secret Sledding
Don't want to drive all the way up the mountain? When there's enough snow in Ashford, the town council builds a family sledding area complete with hay bale crash barriers in the Ashford County Park, says education curator Jessica Moore. Check weather conditions before you go.
3. Treats in town
Eatonville has many places to grab a bite, whether it's breakfast on the way up the mountain, lunch for a picnic or a well-earned dinner at the end of your day. Find them all on the VisitRainier.com site.
4. Eagle Spotting
Moore also has a favorite nature-watching spot in Eatonville: Smallwood Park.
"This time of year the Mashel River is so high," says the curator, who loves to go there with her kids. "You can see a lot of bald eagles hunting for salmon."
5. Forest Hiking
For Rachael Mueller, conservation program coordinator, the best winter hikes are in the Pack Forest just outside Eatonville.
"Hiking, hunting, riding, all sorts of cool stuff," she says.
6. Bud Blancher Trail
There's a cool new trail connecting Eatonville with the Pack Forest. The 2.5-mile Bud Blancher Trail starts in Millpond Park (near Smallwood), where you'll also find a historical log cabin and a serene pond.
7. Roaring River
Moore also likes to visit Elbe, home to a vintage steam train, a restaurant inside a train and the Nisqually River.
"This time of year the river is really high," says Moore.
Other family favorites include parks at Alder Lake and along Highway 7 leading into town.
8. Soak in the heat
Ah...that feeling of sinking into a hot tub in a snowy forest, breathing in crisp mountain air. If you need a warm-up after a day outdoors, several spas in Ashford offer sauna, hot tub and treatments that'll have you blissed out.