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Chinook, Cayuse passes close for winter

WSDOT closed Chinook and Cayuse passes on SR 410 and SR 123 near Mount Rainier National Park this week.

Editor's note: The video above was created in May 2019 during the spring clearing of Chinook and Cayuse passes.

Two passes through Mount Rainier National Park closed this week for the winter season.

Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews and Mount Rainier National Park closed Chinook Pass on State Route 410 and Cayuse Pass on State Route 123 on Thursday at 10 a.m.

Chinook Pass is closed from Crystal Mountain Boulevard to Morse Creek, which is five miles east of the summit. Cayuse Pass is closed from Crystal Mountain Boulevard to the Stevens Canyon Road entrance.

Credit: WSDOT
Chinook and Cayuse passes in Mount Rainier National Park close annually in winter.

Staff plan to remove signs and perform maintenance functions before a snowstorm that’s forecasted to hit this weekend. 

A cold front is expected to move into the region Saturday evening, lowering snow levels to 5,000 feet, according to KING 5 Meteorologist Rich Marriott. Chinook and Cayuse passes, which are at 5,430 feet of elevation and 4,675 feet of elevation, respectively, could get hit.

Cayuse and Chinook passes close annually for the winter; crews typically close the roadways in mid-November and aim to re-open the passes by Memorial Day. Last year the passes closed Nov. 20 and re-opened June 11.

WSDOT chooses to close the passes due to avalanche danger, poor road conditions, lack of snow storage, and no close emergency services. The agency says closing the passes is “the safest approach.”

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