If you’re stuck in a rut and want to get out of town for a day, have you considered going to Crystal Mountain? Yes, that Crystal Mountain, the one known for skiing. There may not be much snow (but yes, there are still patches of it here and there) but the gondola is running and this gives your family a great opportunity for adventure! I’m not one to be outdoorsy and I’m the first to admit it. I was drawn into the idea of Crystal Mountain because several friends on Facebook posted Christmas card picture perfect photos of their families with Mt. Rainier looming largely behind them. I decided that we, too, needed that photo and experience. Some quick research and we were on our way.
The gondola ride wasn’t too long, which you may know if you ski, but the views were gorgeous and the kids loved riding it. We were able to spy some deer grazing and I hear the opportunity to see other wildlife arises now and then. I was hoping for a bear or a moose or something but I was happy with deer. At the top we were greeted with the most amazing views. It was a very sunny day and it was just… wow. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt. St. Helens – all lined up for your viewing pleasure and creating the perfect photo backdrop (assuming you can convince everyone in your party to look at the camera and smile without closing their eyes or making silly faces, which my family cannot manage). There are several hiking trails to try, although we took a short trek that led us to some rocky terrain. Let’s be honest, hiking with a 2.5 year-old that wants to run on her own isn’t very easy, especially when your family doesn’t hike routinely. We were up there for about an hour but that’s us. Like I said, I’m not too outdoorsy.
Here are a few tips:
1) It’s cold out there. It’s a mountain, after all. I recommend layers when it comes to clothing.
2) Don’t wear sandals or flip flops. I did not, thank you very much, but I saw a lot of other women wearing them.
3) You can bring food up and have a picnic! There are picnic tables and other places you can claim to set up a picnic. I saw one family bring up several large coolers, clearly ready for a day of outdoorsy fun.
4) Strollers aren’t practical up there because it’s a mountain and the trails are not paved. Again, not my mistake but I saw other parents struggling with strollers on very rocky paths.
5) If you do your research and come across this tour company page, you may see that an eating option is a taco truck. The taco truck is not ON the mountain. This makes sense after you arrive and realize a taco truck could not drive up that mountain. It’s at the base, where you buy tickets for the gondola. If you happen to think the taco truck is at the top, don’t tell your family and friends you may be with, as they will laugh at you.
1) There’s a restaurant at the top called The Summit House. It’s lovely to look at but we didn’t eat there. It’s also Washington’s highest elevation restaurant.
2) The taco truck by the gondola.
3) The Alpine Inn Restaurant, which is where we ate. Good food, low-key environment, perfect for kids.
Basic info about the gondola:
1) Cost: Adults are $20, Youth are $15, and kids 10 and under are $5.
2) Open daily until September 22 from 10am to 5pm
3) Website – http://crystalmountainresort.com/Summer-Activities/Scenic-Gondola-Rides