Family Weekend Getaway in Mount Rainier
1For a dose of afternoon enjoyment, plan to arrive at Crystal Mountain Resort in the early afternoon. Grab a snack for the kids at the onsite Taco Truck and a microbrew for you at Snorting Elk Cellar (a traditional Austrian pub). Then head out to the resort's 30-hole course of disk golf, which is free and open to anyone.
2At the resort, ride a cherry-red gondola (the first installed in a Washington State ski resort) for dinner at the on-site Summit House Restaurant, featuring comfort food at 6,872 feet (the highest elevation restaurant in the state). Atop Crystal Mountain, enjoy a Wagyu steak salad or soul-warming chicken pot pie, surrounded by unparalleled alpine views.
1Break your night's fast at Crystal Mountain Resort's Bavarian-accented Alpine Inn restaurant, which serves a buffet continental breakfast, then continue south on 410 for about 25 minutes to Tipsoo Lake at the top of Chinook Pass. In summer, a lupine-embroidered trail winds around the quiet alpine lake, which reflects the mountain's face. Pose with the kids for pictures, or look for tadpoles swimming in the lake's clear waters.
2The Grove of the Patriarchs, one of Rainier's best destinations to view old-growth trees, is your next stop. From Tipsoo, head back down, west, on 410 then turn left onto Cayuse Pass (WA-123 S), about 20 minutes to Grove of the Patriarchs. An easy two-mile round trip hike will take you past sentry-like western red cedars, lead you across a suspension bridge, and introduce you to granddaddy evergreens that are over 1,000 years old. Feel free to hug a tree.
3For an adventurous lodge-style lunch, take Stevens Canyon Road for about 40 minutes to the east entrance of Paradise Area of the Mount Rainier National Park. Dine at the Paradise Inn Dining Room, a restaurant that tips its hat to pioneers. Dig into bison burgers or a smoked salmon Caesar salad while seated near big windows overlooking alpine vistas.
4At the same location, step into Mount Rainier's most popular visitor's destination, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, framed by views of the Tattoosh Range mountains. Check out displays of local plant and animal life, and read about the mountain's volcanic legacy. Then head out to explore. There are plenty of great paths near here for an afternoon hike — the only trouble will be choosing one.
5Before it gets dark, drive down the mountain's west side along Paradise Park Highway for 40 minutes toward Alexander's Country Inn in Ashford. The inn's restaurant is a favorite for kids: they can catch a trout in the pond, which the restaurant will cook to order. That and other regional Pacific Northwest fare will please parents, as well. Dinner reservations are a must in summer.
1Fuel up with a hearty brunch at Ashford's Copper Creek Inn & Resort, famed for their blackberry jam and fresh-baked breads, veggie-studded scrambles, and fluffy pancakes. The wood-paneled surroundings and 1955 Mt. Rainier mural add to the vintage charm. Then drive five minutes west on the National Park Highway (state route 706), making a quick stop at the sculpture garden at Ex Nihilo, where artist Dan Klennert has welded metal, assembled wood and other "found" materials into shapes of dinosaurs, monsters, and mythical seahorses.
2For a final mountain adventure, take a train trip through the forest. Drive west on the National Park Highway for 5 minutes to the small town of Elbe. Kids and parents rave about the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, where they can experience Washington forests at a slower pace than in the car, chugging past Douglas firs, western red cedars, and maples, and passing over vintage trestles. These trips can take up to three hours, so plan accordingly.
3Or, for a wildlife-spotting adventure, head over to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, where a 55-minute tram ride introduces the family to bison, elk and moose roaming free across 435 acres. Forested pathways lead you past rehabilitated bears, bobcats, cougars, and other predatory creatures in protective exhibits. From Elbe, drive west along the Mountain Highway (SR 7) to Hwy 161. Turn North on 161 and drive through the town of Eatonville to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, located just 6 miles north of Eatonville.