- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - With snow covering higher elevations, staff at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks are prepping for the start of the winter recreation season.

“Visitors can come have a great park experience during a time that offers incredible seasonal opportunities, if they plan ahead, prepare for changing conditions, and know their limitations,” Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King said in a prepared statement.

“Thanksgiving weekend is our traditional kickoff for the snow season at Hurricane Ridge,” Olympic Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a statement.

Here is a rundown on some of what’s happening this winter:

MOUNT RAINIER

Longmire: The area is open seven days a week, unless major storm events require closure. The museum is open from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, providing general park information, winter activity guidance, backcountry permits, and Discover Your Northwest books and maps for sale. The National Park Inn provides lodging, food, gifts, and snowshoe/ski rentals. For reservations, call 360-569-2275 or visit mtrainierguestservices.com.

Visitors can come have a great park experience during a time that offers incredible seasonal opportunities. Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King

Paradise: The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center is open 10 a.m.-4:15 p.m. weekends only, as well as Dec. 23-Jan. 3.

The Paradise snowplay area is not yet open. Park managers want a snowpack of at least 60 inches before opening the area. The snowplay area did not open last winter.

Ranger-led snowshoe walks are scheduled to begin Dec. 23, and run through March 27. The walks will take place weekends and holiday periods when the visitor center is open. They begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and last two hours. Sign-ups are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and begin one hour in advance of each walk at the Jackson Visitor Center information desk.

Longmire-Paradise road: The gate at Longmire is closed nightly to ensure visitor and staff safety, with uphill access closing at 4 p.m. Each morning, rangers and road crews will evaluate road, weather, and avalanche conditions to determine when it is safe to open the road above Longmire. The standard open hours of the road are from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

OLYMPIC

Hurricane Ridge Road: The road is scheduled to be open Fridays-Sundays and Monday holidays through March 27, weather permitting. The road is also scheduled to be open daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 3.

The road might close temporarily if the parking lot becomes full. Park staff urges Hurricane Ridge visitors to carpool and pay extra attention to making the best possible use of the parking area.

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center: It will be open Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays beginning Dec. 12 and daily Dec. 26- Jan. 3. Ranger-led snowshoe walks will be offered at 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays from Dec. 19-March 27, as well as Jan. 1. The walks last 90 minutes and are less than one mile in length. A $7 participation fee is charged for adults, with a $3 fee for youth from 6-15 years old. Admission is free for children 5 and younger. Sign up at the visitor center information desk beginning 30 minutes before the scheduled walk.

Ski and tubing area: Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing Area will operate from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays Dec. 6-March 27. The area is also scheduled to be open daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 3. More information is available at hurricaneridge.com. Tubing and sliding are permitted free of charge for children 8 and younger at the small children’s snowplay area just west of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center: The center and Wilderness Information Center at the base of Hurricane Ridge Road is open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. except for Christmas.

Stay informed

MOUNT RAINIER: nps.gov/mora, twitter.com/MountRainierNPS, 360-569-2211.

OLYMPIA: nps.gov/olym, twitter.com/HRWinterAccess, 360-565-3131.

Reminder: All vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive, must have chains when traveling in the mountains. That includes Hurricane Ridge Road above Heart O’ the Hills entrance station.

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The original story can be found on The News Tribune’s website: http://bit.ly/1NE1JGR

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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