The road to Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park will reopen for the upcoming three-day holiday weekend. But the road to the park’s most popular winter play area will be open just weekends and holidays likely until spring.
A park official late Wednesday announced plans for getting vehicles and park visitors around the 100-foot slide on Glacier Hill, above the bridge over the Nisqually River. The slide was discovered a week ago as park staff tried to reopen the road following a week of heavy snow then rain. Half of the uphill lane slid 30 to 40 down the steep hillside.
Because the damage was done in an area prone to avalanches, repairs won’t occur until winter snows subside, probably in May, said park spokeswoman Lee Taylor.
To get vehicles through the area, flaggers will be stationed near the bridge and at a spot at the top of the hill where it is safe for cars to line up. The flaggers will allow traffic to move through the area, one direction at a time.
"The traffic through the damaged area will have to be pretty tightly managed," Taylor said. "We don’t people stopping in that area."
Drivers shouldn’t expect lengthy delays, though, because the majority of the traffic is going uphill in the morning and down in the afternoon.
The decision to open the road only for weekends and holidays, Taylor said, was based on several factors: the cost of stationing people on the road seven days a week, to allow plows to work unhindered by traffic on Fridays to have it ready for the weekend and traffic volumes.
On weekends, 300 to 600 cars use the road on weekends, compared to 100 to 200 on weekdays, she said.
"It’s a weighing of the cost versus the benefit," Taylor said.
The road will be open at Longmire as soon as crews have cleared any new snow. Park visitors should call 360-569-2211 for the latest road report.