Visitors to Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks are reminded they must have tire chains with them as of Thursday.
The requirement applies regardless of weather and road conditions. With roads reaching elevations of 5,400 feet at Paradise and 5,242 feet at Hurricane Ridge, weather and road conditions can change quickly.
In both locations, four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles must carry chains.
At Olympic, the requirement pertains to all vehicles traveling on the Hurricane Ridge Road above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station.
Both parks often establish check points to ensure that drivers are complying with the regulation. Having a set a chains with you will save you a return drive to the nearest location selling chains.
At Mount Rainier, chains can be found at the Longmire General Store; Whittaker Mountaineering, Ashford Valley Grocery and Suver’s General Store in Ashford; Eatonville Auto Parts-Napa; and Ed’s Morton Auto Parts-Napa in Morton.
For Olympic visitors, chains can be purchased at Les Schwab Tire Center, Napa Auto Parts, Port Angeles Tire Factory, O’Reilly’s Auto Supply, Baxter Auto Parts, Wal-Mart and Carquest in Port Angeles.
Some locations allow chains to be returned, but the offer varies, so check before purchasing.
Park officials recommend drivers practice putting the chains on their vehicle before the trip, to make sure they fit.
LEARNING CENTER OPENS
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument has officially opened the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater.
Formerly the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, the Science and Learning Center facility offers classroom and laboratory space for educational groups, primary and secondary schools, researchers and others. The facility is open to the public, also serving as an information station, rest area and indoor/outdoor picnic area for visitors.
Next year, monument officials expect to introduce new programs offered through partners and more visitor amenities.
In November and December, the center will be open to the public from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It will close from January through April, reopening in mid-May, though some partner programs may occur at the facility throughout winter.
The facility is located at Milepost 43 on state Route 504, approximately 10 miles west of Johnston Ridge Observatory. There are indoor and outdoor picnic tables, restrooms and a magnificent view of Mount St. Helens.
The Elk Bench Trail starts near the building and connects with the Lakes Trail, providing views of Coldwater Lake and frequent elk sightings along the way. The Lakes Trail, now being maintained through a partnership with a local mountain biking group, travels along the shore of Coldwater Lake. Adjacent to the center is the accessible Winds of Change Trail, a quarter-mile paved path leading through a part of the blast zone.
A pet rest area is located within the Coldwater Lake parking area.
OLYMPIC ROAD UPDATES
Beginning Friday, and when the weather permits, Hurricane Ridge Road will be open Fridays-Sundays from 9 a.m.-dusk through the winter season.
The road also will be open Christmas through New Year’s Day week, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day. After a two-year trial to study the economic impact of a daily road schedule, park officials have decided to return to the Friday-Sunday schedule for this winter.
The nearby Obstruction Point Road will close for the season Wednesday, unless heavy snow hits the area beforehand.
On the park’s west side, the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is open Fridays-Sundays through April 1. The center will be closed Christmas Day.