Looking to plan a summer getaway with special friends, those gal-pals? Heading west into the scenic Mt. Rainier area offers mountainside attractions, fun shops, delicious eats, spas and cozy sleeps. With the mountain roads open, snows receding and native wildflowers blooming, it’s easy to design a fun-filled glamping itinerary for several days. With a handy Washington State map plan your route from this sampling:
Crystal Mountain, Mt. Rainier and Greenwater
From the Yakima area and eastern environs drive west on US Highway 12, turn onto SR 410 and then north on SR 123 to Crystal Mountain. At the base of the ski area climb into a bright red gondola and in 10 minutes you’ll reach the 6,870 ft. level at Summit House restaurant. Relax here and enjoy views of Mt. Rainier and the highest dining experience in the state. The eatery is open for lunch daily through September 23. Or, plan lunch or dinner at cozy Alpine Inn and Snorting Elk Wine Cellar located below at the base. (www.skicrystal.com)
Arrange cozy sleeps at Alta Crystal Resort, just a few miles from Crystal Mountain; turn west onto SR 410 for a short distance. Comfortable guest rooms with fireplaces and kitchens sleep four and the outdoor swimming pool and hot tub offer soaking and chat-time. Ask about ordering optional breakfast baskets, or, bring groceries and cook omelets and brew coffee in the morning. (www.altacrystalresort.com)
For an easy breakfast plus fun shopping about 15 minutes west on SR 410, near Greenwater, stop at Wapati Woolies for gifts galore, colorful sweaters and tee shirts as well as tasty breakfast sandwiches, yummy pastries and Starbucks beverages at the small café-espresso bar. (www.wapatiwoolies.com)
Paradise, Longmire, Ashford, and Elbe
From Greenwater head back east on SR 410 and onto SR 123 to the turn-off to Paradise Inn on the south flank of Mt. Rainier. Explore the historic ca. 1917 inn perched at 5,400-ft., pause in the large common area with comfy armchairs and fireplaces, see historic photographs of earlier years and browse in the fabulous gift shop. You’ll find another gift shop in the nearby day lodge. The inn offers a sumptuous brunch on weekends.
Head back down the mountain for a few miles and plan dinner and sleeps at the National Park Inn in Longmire. The inn offers a lovely restaurant, afternoon pastries and beverages fireside and cozy guest rooms. Curl up and chat on the inn’s wide covered porch with views of Mt. Rainier. Next door browse another friendly shop with gifts, goodies, and mountain wear. (www.mtrainierguestservices.com/accommodations/national-park-inn)
Complete your glamping sojourn by planning a wildflower hike (see VisitRainier.com for helpful directions) and a spa visit (StormKingSpa.com or WellSpringSpa.com) located off SR 706 in Ashford. Plan a tasty lunch at Alexander’s Country Inn, which also offers cozy guest rooms. Continue west from Ashford on SR 706 to visit the 4-acre Sculpture Park and meet friendly artist Dan Klennert. He’s created fabulous sculptures of horses and other creatures from recycled metal, driftwood and other materials. Don’t miss it!
Glamping is: “glamour camping.” Not quite roughing it. You are out in the wilderness, hiking around, having a camp fire, etc., but you are sleeping in a bed, enjoying a glass of wine at the end of your hike, maybe dining on something more upscale than freeze dried food or hot dogs and can have access to electricity. Or it can be you are staying in a retro RV, a “Ralph Lauren-style” tipi, a cute cabin or fancy wall tent. It’s luxury camping. Fine food, wine, visiting cute shops, hiking and enjoying the outdoors.