Have you been meaning to zoom off on a day trip, hoof it on a hike or spy a stunning peak all summer, but somehow playdates, summer camps and spray parks got in the way? Never fear, busy parents. Summer is not over, and we have the perfect place to do all three—Crystal Mountain Resort. This splendid spot not only has views of stunning, snow-capped peaks, walks through vibrant valleys and lots of room to roam, but a thrilling mountainside ride and enticing edibles sure to please your whole brood.
Way More Than Snow
When most of us think about the mountains in our fair state, we think of sparkling snow, lift lines and lots (and lots!) of skiing or snowboarding. Why would you go to Crystal when the snow’s all gone? Luckily, the folks at Crystal Mountain Resort have created a summertime wonderland for us nature-inclined families, with lots of trails, wildflowers for miles, spots to get your nosh on and treats to keep your brood busy, plus an eye-popping ride to the top.
Head East, Young Man
Most folks will head to Crystal Mountain via Enumclaw, which is usually the most direct route from the city. If the Littles get grumpy before you hit your ultimate destination, plan a pit-stop in uber-friendly Greenwater, which is about 21 miles east of Enumclaw. Grab a potty break and an ice cream at world-famous Wapiti Woolies (their hats have been on Mount Everest), or grab a snack (and a beer for you) on the huge, sun-filled patio at the historic Naches Bar and Grill before you make your way up the mountain. This is also a perfect place to stop on your way home when the words “I have to pee” inevitably fall from your little one’s lips. InsiderTip: If you elect to take 410 before Greenwater, expect 30-40 minute delays on Chinook Pass Mon.-Fri. because of avalanche control work.
Once you’ve hit the base of Crystal, find a spot in the ginormous parking lot and make your way to the Resort. There, you’ll find a few food options for your nature-starved (or just starved) brood. For an easy meal at the base, check out the All American Lunch Box food truck, open weekends for lunch from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.(ish). Burgers, dogs, brats, salads and more await you at this convenient spot to fuel up, and the flower-covered patio is a great place for your mini-me to walk out the wiggles while you nosh at the umbrella-ed picnic tables.
If you’re looking for a little more scenery with your salad, look to the tippy-top of Crystal to the Summit House Restaurant, Washington’s highest elevation eatery at a whopping 6,872 feet. A variety of salads, seafood dishes, Northwest-themed sammies and steak are available for grownups, while the kids’ menu offers burgers, PB&J, buttered noodles and more. Reservations are strongly recommended (and do not include the cost of a trip up the mountain), though not required, and patio seating is first come, first served. Insider Tip: The tables Inside have a view too.
If you’re raring to get your adventure on, skip the restaurants and grab pre-made sammies, bottled drinks and snacks at the Mountain Shop Market before you head to the summit, or grab your grub (and a beer) at the Summit Shop, located just below the gondola at the top of the mountain.
Up, Up and Away
Yes, we said gondola! The super cool Mount Rainier Gondola will whisk your whole family a dizzying and breathtaking 2,500 feet up, up, up to the summit of Crystal Mountain. Check out the stupefying views and the peaceful silence (you can dream, right?) in the steady and air-conditioned car, which seats eight, including wheelchairs and the family dog. At the top, plan on spending at least an hour taking in the nearly 360 degree jaw-dropping views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range. Wood and canvas lounge chairs are set up to stretch your legs and gaze on Rainier, or you can walk (or run) the wiggles out on the various trails along the summit with even better viewpoints. If you’re lucky, Rainier will decide to show her pretty face while you’re gawking. Insider Tip: If you’d like to save money, and your crew is of the extra hearty variety, hike up Crystal. One way gondola rides down the mountain are free (and you deserve it!). Just don’t forget sun hats and sunblock, shade is not in abundance at the summit.
If the road trip, dizzying gondola ride and dessert with a view isn’t enough to whet your adventuring whistle, there are a few other fun frolics to keep the kiddos (and you) busy ’til closing time. The free Crystal Mountain Disc Golf Course offers 30 holes and two courses to get your frisbee on. The Lower Course stays at the base, while the Summit Course involves a gondola ride and a gradual hike down the mountain. (Don’t forget your hiking boots!). Speaking of hiking boots, there are a variety of hiking trails covering Crystal to get your blood pumping, from toddler-riffic to downright difficult. Download the Crystal Mountain app or print out the Hiking Trail Map and plan your trek.
If you have an equine aficionado in your family, then horseback riding with Crystal Mountain Outfitters will be right up your trail. Rides last 3-6 miles (or all day for folks 12 and older) through early Sept.; leave a message at 509-895-9120 to check availability. Finally, if you’d just like to lay low and toss a horseshoe or two, various free lawn games like badminton, volleyball, bean bag toss and yes, horseshoes are available to check out at the Mountain Shop.
Crystal Mountain Resort
33818 Crystal Mountain Blvd.
Enumclaw, Wa 98022
Main Office: 360-663-2265
Mount Rainier Gondola
Open: Through Sept. 21, 2014
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Closes daily at 5:30 p.m. starting Sept. 2, 2014.
Cost: Adults (13-64) $22; Children (4-12) $12; 3 and under Free
Summit House Restaurant
Open: Through Sept. 21, 2014
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Closes daily at 4:45 p.m. starting Sept. 2, 2014.
Do you think you’ll visit Crystal Mountain before the snow returns? Have you already visited this summer? Let us know about your experience in a comment below!
Photos courtesy of: Katie Christiansen, Erin Cranston and Crystal Mountain Facebook page