Crystal Mountain Ski Resort is highly regarded as one of the best hubs for outdoor winter recreation in Washington. But even if skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, Crystal Mountain can still be your place. Whether you’re heading up to the mountain with friends who are skiing, or you’re looking for a unique winter adventure, Crystal can still be for you. Read on for some sights, bites and activities that don’t involve skis or a board.
Mount Rainier Gondola
If you’re like me, and the chairlift freaks you out a bit, fear not with the Mount Rainier Gondola. Step inside (the gondola slows for loading and unloading but doesn’t come to a complete stop), pick a seat on one of the benches at either end and relax. The 10-minute ride is quiet and generally smooth. The views (weather-dependent) are great from every side. Don’t forget to look behind you for another perspective.
At the summit, you will have ascended just over 2,400 feet. After exiting the gondola, look for the two signs on the back fence of the platform. One shows Mount Rainier’s glaciers and the mountains you can see and the other shows area flora and fauna. It’s a spectacular view!
In addition to taking in the views, there is some space to play in the snow and walk a bit along the ridge.
In the summer, there is hiking to explore from this area as well. The Mount Rainier platform is also available for wedding ceremonies and outdoor seating is open at the Summit House.
Lunch with a View
If you can tear yourself away from the stunning views outside (looking at you, Mount Rainier!), make your way inside to the Summit House Restaurant. The views are great there too! There are windows on three sides, and on a clear day, they offer views of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker.
The menu isn’t huge, but the food is tasty. The servers are friendly and knowledgeable about the area, and if the weather is cloudy (as on my last visit), the servers can describe what you would see on a clear day.
Another way to explore Crystal without getting on a chairlift is by snowshoe. Grab a snowshoe trail map from Crystal’s website or at the ticket window and choose from easy, moderate or hard routes. You can walk at your own pace, stopping for pictures as you like.
Snowshoes and poles are available to rent, but you’ll need to bring your own boots, clothing and supplies. If you are feeling more adventurous, ski and snowboarding lessons and equipment rentals are available as well.
Grab a warm drink and settle into one of the Adirondack chairs behind the rental shop. You can watch skiers and boarders come down their runs.
When you’re ready to stretch your legs, head over to the Fireside Cantina and covered seating area. Grab a spot by the fire or at one of the covered outdoor tables. On weekends, listen to live music on the stage and watch for area breweries pouring craft beer at the outside bar.
Staying Warm Inside
On the main level, there is open seating with additional food options, another bar, espresso and more TVs. It can get busy and crowded, so try and find a spot in a corner if you plan to settle in with a book or your laptop.
Overnight accommodations are available at the mountain and nearby. Whether you want to stay in Alta Crystal Resort, Silver Skis Chalet, Crystal Chalets or your RV, Crystal Mountain has many amenities for everyone wanting to visit.
Visiting Crystal Mountain in the Summer
A visit to Crystal is great in the summer too. In addition to hiking and the gondola, there is a disc-golf course, mountain yoga and other activities.
If you’re staying overnight and want more to explore, the Sunrise entrance (open only during the summer) to Mount Rainier National Park is just past the turn to Crystal.
Tips and Tricks for Your Trip to Crystal Mountain
- Usual nature rules apply: leave no trace, come prepared and be responsible.
- Keep an eye on Crystal’s online event calendar or follow them on social media for upcoming events.
- Check Crystal’s website before you go for information on current conditions and openings/closures.
- If coffee or ice cream would perk up your trip home, stop at Wapiti Outdoors (formerly Wapiti Woolies) in Greenwater. Their huckleberry milkshakes are delicious.