25. September 2012 19:44
Regular readers of my blogs are likely already aware that Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favorites among America’s great parks. However, being able to spend the entire summer in the Seattle/Tacoma area this year has provided me with the opportunity to visit a number of the area’s secondary attractions that are still of substantial interest.
One of these is the Crystal Mountain Resort, among the Pacific Northwest’s premier ski resorts, which boasts the state-of-the-art Mount Rainier Gondola. Climbing almost 2,500 vertical feet from the base station at 4,400 feet up Crystal Mountain, the gondola passes over meadows of wildflowers and evergreen forests en route to breathtaking views of neighboring 14,411-foot Mount Rainier, as well as the Cascade Range as far away as 12,276-foot Mount Adams, over 50 miles distant.
At the top, in addition to overlooks with panoramic views and the opportunity to choose from a number of scenic hikes, groups are sure to enjoy a lunch (or weekend dinner) at the Summit House, Washington’s highest elevation restaurant, at 6,872 feet. Here both a large outdoor patio and indoor dining room combine fine Northwest cuisine with the backdrop of towering Mount Rainier to create an especially memorable meal.
For a full-day trip from Seattle during the summer months, I’d recommend a late morning gondola ascent followed by lunch, then an afternoon excursion into the national park proper for an awe-inspiring scenic drive to the visitor center and related facilities at Sunrise (6,400 feet), about as close that a visitor can get to one of the nation’s most impressive peaks without an extended hike.
Magnificent Mount Rainier from atop Crystal Mountain
Dining with an incredible view
Checking out the Crystal Mountain layout