Snow huts enhance Mount Rainier adventures

High Hut, one of four cabins in the Mount Tahoma trail and hut system, offers skiers and snowshoers affordable lodging with a view of Mount Rainier. (Associated Press)
High Hut, one of four cabins in the Mount Tahoma trail and hut system, offers skiers and snowshoers affordable lodging with a view of Mount Rainier. (Associated Press)

Ending a day in a warm, cozy place to settle is a boon to any outdoor adventure in the snow – bonus points if you don’t have to leave the snow behind to find your haven.

A series of snow huts south of Mount Rainier near Ashford maintained and managed by Mount Tahoma Trail Association volunteers and others is an affordable way to stay in the backcountry during snow season. The huts are available overnight by reservation and for anyone during the day.

The Mount Tahoma trail and hut system has about 50 miles of trail, 20 of it groomed, three huts and a yurt.

The accommodations include:

Copper Hut: The trail system is divided by the Nisqually River, and this hut is the only one to the north of the river. It’s 4 miles from the Sno-Park on a free groomed and patrolled trail. This hut is the most easily accessible, popular among families with small children. Sleeps 14.

High Hut: This, and the other two sites, are south of the Nisqually River. It’s located on a high ridge with 360-degree views, including Mount Rainier, the crater of Mount St. Helens, the Olympics, a glimpse of Mount Adams on a clear day and world-class sunsets. It’s a 4-mile ski from the Sno-Park, including about 1,700 feet of elevation gain. Sleeps eight.

Snow Bowl: The newest hut was constructed two years ago on a ridge. To one side there’s a line of trees and to the other the view opens out to a valley. It’s known for great stargazing and a stellar view of Mount Rainier. Ski in 4 miles from the Sno-Park. Sleeps 14.

The Yurt: A two-story structure with a basement area so the main floor is above the snow. Situated in a bowl at the base of Griffin Mountain, it doesn’t offer expansive views, but it’s in a pretty setting, the most remote of all of the structures. Ski in about 2.5 miles beyond Snow Bowl – 6.5 miles total. Sleeps six.

Each site has heat, an outhouse, a complete kitchen including utensils, a table and chairs, lighting, pots to melt snow and a filter to treat the water. All you need is a sleeping bag, clothes, food and any emergency gear you want for the trip to and from the hut.

Vehicles belonging to people using the trails must have a Washington Sno-Park permit during the day. After 7 p.m., visitor vehicles must also have a permit for the huts.

Most weekend spots fill up far in advance, but there are plenty of spots during the week.

Permits are $15 per person, per night.

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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