Springtime cues crews up to Chinook Pass. After a careful assessment last week, Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance workers can begin clearing the 5,430-foot pass.
Each year crews blast, plow and blow their way through 20 to 30 feet of snow to clear the highway. This year, Chinook Pass has approximately 18 feet of snow at the summit, which is about average. The earliest reopening date was April 5, 1973 and the latest was July 12, 1974. Right now, it’s too soon to tell how long it will take crews to reopen the pass. The goal is reopen Chinook Pass in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Chinook Pass has been closed since Nov. 12, 2012. WSDOT typically closes Chinook Pass for the winter in late November due to heavy snowfall, high avalanche risk, and hazardous driving conditions. A five-mile stretch just east of the summit is located along the steep slope of an avalanche area, which makes it too dangerous to keep open during the snowy winter months.
Chinook Pass, serves as a scenic byway, an entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, and access to mountain cabins, seasonal campgrounds and hiking trails including the Pacific Crest Trail. Commercial vehicles are prohibited at all times.
On the west, crews started clearing efforts on Cayuse in early March and hope to reopen by Memorial Day weekend, too.
Check the Chinook Pass Web page for weekly updates every Thursday.