When to go: mid-May through early October Start/End: Enumclaw, WA
Interested in glamping, or glamour camping, in the scenic Mt. Rainier region this summer or fall? Then round up your gal pals for this two day glamping getaway filled with hidden gems around Mt. Rainier. Take a gondola ride at Crystal Mountain, explore an historic mountain inn at Paradise, and visit an impressive iron sculpture park in Elbe. Pick and choose from the itinerary below to create your own fabulous girlfriend getaway.
Your glamping trip begins in Enumclaw, 25 miles northwest of the mountain. The largest of Mt. Rainier’s gateway communities, Enumclaw is a great place to gas up and grab some snacks for the road. You can also pick up a Discovery Pass in Enumclaw at the Work, Sports & Outdoors store. Note: Discovery Passes are required at all state-run parks and recreation lands.
Tracy’s Roadside Produce; Photo: Carrie Uffindell
From Enumclaw, head east on SR 410 toward SR 123, a 147-mile driving loop that winds gently around the southeast base of Mt. Rainier in about 5 hours sans any stops you make along the way. Note: From November to May each year, SR 123 between Crystal Mountain Ski Resort and Paradise is closed due to snowfall.
It’s an early September morning outside of Enumclaw when my girlfriends and I pile into our rented minivan. After a quick stop at Tracy’s Roadside Produce to snoop amongst a huge variety of treats, jams, and gift items, we select snacks and bevies. Then we head east on SR 410 to our next stop.
Located eight miles from Enumclaw, pause at Federation Forest State Park, 619 acres of old-growth evergreens and home to over 100 species of birds. The park offers hiking trails, picnic benches, and an interpretive center. Pull on your tennies or hiking shoes and enjoy an easy lowland hike along the scenic White River with sounds of twittering birds and musical waters. Note: A Discovery Pass is required to park.
From here continue east on SR 410 and stop at the small town of Greenwater, located 5 miles from Federation Forest. Pull off and park at Wapiti Woolies and check out the ski gear, warm sweaters, fabulous selection of gift items and their famous handmade warm hats. You and the gals can also grab a tasty espresso and pastry from the café-coffee bar before you continue east on SR 410. Note: This is also the last place to get gas on this side of Mt. Rainier.
Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater; Photo: Carrie Uffindell
Crystal Mountain Resort is the next stop in our glamping getaway. Continue east on SR 410 until you reach Crystal Mountain Boulevard. Turn left and wind up six miles to the 4,440 ft base resort. Park in the large upper parking lot, just steps away from Crystal Mountain’s main lodge, the Alpine Inn restaurant, hiking trails, and the Mt. Rainier Gondola.
Take the gondola for a scenic 10-minute ride up to the 6,872 ft. summit. The gondola is open daily from mid-June to mid-September, weather permitting. When you reach the summit, disembark from the gondola and pause for a moment to take in the spectacular panoramic view of Mt. Rainier’s 14,410 ft. summit and the surrounding peaks. Head to the newly renovated Summit House, the highest elevation restaurant in Washington and enjoy gourmet meals in a casual atmosphere.
Hopping on the gondola; Photo: Carrie Uffindell
After taking in the awesome views, join a Forest Ranger-guided interpretive hike around the summit’s alpine landscape. Weather permitting, the interpretive hikes are offered Wednesday through Sunday in the summer and begin promptly at 11am and 1pm. All ages are welcome. The hike is short and easy, the ranger stopping often to describe the mountain’s wildlife, geology, and human history.
The next stop on our glamping getaway is Grove of the Patriarchs. Continue east on SR 410 to SR 123 south, to Stevens Canyon Road, and across the Ohanapecosh River Bridge to the trailhead parking area. After a short hike, about a mile, you’ll cross a suspension bridge into an ancient forest of both downed and towering, old-growth Douglas firs and Western red cedars. Some of these giants are over a thousand years old.
Grove of the Patriarchs; Photo: Carrie Uffindell
Now it’s onto Paradise. Head west on Stevens Canyon Road to Paradise Valley Road and travel two miles up to the historic Paradise Inn. Park in the large upper parking lot. Plan time to explore the splendid Inn perched at 5,400-ft. elevation with Mt. Rainier towering in the background. Built in 1917, the Inn is beautifully renovated with cozy rooms and a spacious fireplace lobby. After a delicious Sunday brunch in the Paradise Inn Dining Room you and your girlfriends can find a quiet corner to curl up and chat while marveling at the Inn’s exposed wooden beams, rustic furniture, and hand-painted lampshades. Note: There is a National Park Service entrance fee for visitors heading up to Paradise.
If time permits, walk to the nearby Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center and explore the interactive exhibits, browse the gift shop, or join a free ranger-led hike. Hike themes change often, depending upon the leading ranger’s expertise and usually run from late June until Labor Day. No sign up is required and all ages are welcome.
The last stop in our glamping getaway is the Ex-Nihilo Sculpture Park in Elbe. Go back down Paradise Valley Road to SR 706 west and drive 30 miles to Elbe. The Ex-Nihilo Sculpture Park will be on your left, just before Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. Created by artist Daniel Klennert, the park is an amazing collection of recycled iron and natural driftwood pieces. Marvel at the dozens of sculptures, including life-sized iron horses frolicking in the grass, an enormous steam train, and a four-man band. And be sure to check out the smaller iron artwork and knickknacks available in the small gift shop.
By the time my girlfriends and I leave Enumclaw, it’s late afternoon. As we head home, we can’t help but glance back at Mt. Rainier, thinking of our two memorable days enjoying the glamorous side of camping.
For complete information on vacationing around Mt. Rainier, go to visitrainier.com.
Visit Rainier is a not-for-profit, non-membership destination marketing organization that promotes tourism in the gateway communities around Mt.Rainier.