The News Tribune logo

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Season For Crystal Mountain to commence June 19

The snow at Crystal is melting rapidly under the late Spring sun. The folks at Crystal Mountain are revving up for the summer season. This year it is easier for more people to get into the high country. Hikers in the area know that the terrain around Crystal is hilly, but it is uniquely scenic and has only a tiny fraction of the visitors that Mt. Rainier National Park, situated a hand full of miles to the west has, so visitors to the Crystal area will get a nice wilderness experience. One of the largely unknown gems of Crystal is Henskin Lake, which is found a short distance beyond the top of Crystal’s Chair lift #4.

Getting to this lake is about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, and the chair lift is shut off so you are in for a work out. I like to hike and it takes me an easy 45 minutes to get to the top of the lift, and another 15 minutes or so to get to the lake. I always the long way back down. You can also get here on a bike, if you’re strong willed enough, or by horseback.

I love bike riding. If you want to ride a bike in the area, Crystal management says it’s okay as long as you stay on the designated roads or trails. They are not permitting bikes on the chair lift to go up hill or down.

Biking in the area amounts to a serious work to get up hill, but your reward is miles of free-wheeling downhill fun. One of my favorite bike rides this time of year starts at the bottom of Crystal Mountain Boulevard and winds about 6 miles uphill and offers about 1,400 feet of elevation gain. The ride ends at Crystal’s base area. There is not a lot of traffic on the road and the views are endlessly jaw-dropping. If you have a mountain bike and are up for a challenge, you can start at Crystal’s base area and wind your way up on any of a large number of marked trails. Either way, coming back down is both challenging and a thrill.

Crystal is situated just across the White River and up a hill from Mt Rainier National Park. Some don’t have the time to walk or bicycle ride up nearly 3,000 feet of vertical gain to a peak. This year Crystal is offering Scenic Chairlift rides on Sundays only. This ride takes the adventurer from Crystal’s base area on the Chinook Express high speed lift, to the mid-mountain drop off, and from there to the top by way of the Rainier Express (a.k.a. REX) high speed chairlift. The top of the lift is at a little over 6,870 feet above sea level.

From the top of the lift, Mt Rainier offers views that makes time seem to stand still …

…and it is a short walk along a mountaintop to Snorting Elk lake…

You can find information about their chairlift rides at here.

Once you’re done exploring the area from the mountain top, you can ride the chairlift back down to the mid mountain, than transfer to a different chair to return to the base. You can also chose to hike half way, or all the way down. If you chose to hike, you really, really need to have good boots and wear suitable clothing. A hike at Crystal is delightful. The wild-flowers and abundant wild life will dazzle you, and the high country wilderness can help change your perspective, long after you’ve left the area. But again, you really need to wear good boots and have suitable clothing because it’s most definitely not a typical walk in the park.

Another way to explore the area is on horseback. I've never done this but would like to. Crystal offers hose back rides in the area by way of a group called Crystal Mountain Outfitters. According to their web site, they are offering horseback rides starting June 15th and continuing through the summer. They offer rides of varying time. The costs are less than you might expect for the unique experience. A downloadable brochure at their site states that a “1 hour ride” is $30 per person, and an “All day +fishing” ride is $150 per person. Check their web site and contact them for more information. You will need to schedule ahead as these excursions are very popular, and for a very good reason. It is also a good idea to study their recommendations for clothing and related.

For those who are looking for about the most unique brunch or dinner experience in Washington’s highest restaurant, Crystal is offering their spectacular Sunset Dinners and also Sunday Brunch at Crystal’s recently remodeled Summit House. Getting to the Summit House and back takes place by way of their high speed chair lifts. If you like the experience coming up, riding down in twilight is something you will always remember.

Sunset Dinners are fine dining affairs and are offered on most Friday and Saturday evenings, starting on June 19 and continuing through September 5. Sunday Brunch at the Summit House is offered most Sundays. You need to check their schedule to get the details straight look here, and reservations are required.

Crystal is also offering 2 events that take the term culinary enchantment to the next level. These are on July 10 and August 14. The July event is their Winemaker’s Dinner and the August 14th event features a guest chef and an exceptional meal.

Make it a weekend to remember: If you want to spend the weekend and do a combination of these fun excursions, Crystal offers a variety of over-night accommodations. From camping to staying at a nice place with a pool, Crystal can accommodate you.

For more information see Crystal’s web site.

A duplicate of this articlecan be found at


Jaynie Jones said...

Breathtaking beauty! Thanks for the solid information, too.

Kim Thompson said...

How cool is this? Great to see you again, Tracy.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the kind words to both of you!!

I don't remember my login so i replied as anonymous