Most summers, the 3.8-mile round-trip hike to Comet Falls in Mount Rainier National Park is a popular, family-friendly walk.
This summer, park rangers are recommending hikers use ice axes and crampons to navigate the route that is still covered with snow.
And Comet Falls Trail isn’t the only one. Many popular summer mountain trails are still buried under slippery old snow, causing hazards for hikers and making finding routes more challenging.
“We don’t want to scare people away,” said Mount Rainier National Park chief ranger Chuck Young, “but they need to be prepared. It is not a typical summer.”
Heavy snowfall in the winter and spring coupled with what the National Climatic Data Center called Washington’s coldest April and June in 117 years have left snow lingering about five weeks longer than usual, said Paul Werth of Weather Research and Consulting Services.
As of July 28, only two hikers had been able to complete the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile loop around Mount Rainier that is typically packed with hikers from July to October, Young said. Many hikers who’ve tried it have turned around after losing the trail.
“They follow their boot tracks back out,” Young said. “If you don’t have good route-finding skills, it can be easy to get lost.”
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