The highest restaurant in the state of Washington is Summit House, which sits atop Crystal Mountain at an elevation of 6,872 feet. Reaching Summit House in the past involved riding two ski lifts, which were open to the elements, and in ski season you had to rely on your own abilities to get yourself back down the mountain. All that has changed with the addition of the new Mt. Rainier Gondola, which whisks people from the base lodge at 4,300 feet to the Summit House in less than ten minutes, in glass-enclosed cabins with padded bench seats. And the gondola also takes diners back down the mountain!
The Summit House is just one of several attractions that make Crystal Mountain a year-round resort. Crystal Mountain is best known for skiing, but it also has a disc golf course, horseshoe pits, and trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. For RVers, there are campsites with electrical hookups. In addition, the location in the northeast corner of Mt. Rainier National Park provides a base for two standout scenic drives.
The Summit House
Originally built as a warming hut in 1964, the Summit House has become an upscale dining establishment, offering an unsurpassed 360-degree view of the Cascade Range and a stunning view of Mount Rainier.
The Crystal Mountain website describes the restaurant this way: “Where Northwest cuisine and global flavors meet and are presented in a casual manner by a friendly and knowledgeable staff, with food that stimulates the senses.” We would add that the portions are generous (come hungry) and the service is first rate. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch and for special events, including weddings. For hours of operation, visit crystalmountainresort.com.
The Mt. Rainier Gondola
The gondola, which cost about $8 million, consists of 12 towers and 22 cabins. It opened at the beginning of this year and has an uphill capacity of 600 people per hour. The ride uphill takes about 10 minutes. Riders experience spectacular scenery as they climb 2,500 feet over a rushing stream, wildflowers, lingering snowfields and lush evergreens. Riders may even spot a Roosevelt Elk or two grazing on emerging shoots as the snow melts in early summer.
A ride up the gondola on a sunny summer day and the resulting view is reason enough to visit. Adding an enjoyable meal at the Summit House is the proverbial icing on the cake.
Once you have scratched off riding the gondola and visiting the highest restaurant in Washington state from your bucket list, take a look at everything else there is to do for an adventure-loving RV enthusiast at Crystal Mountain.
Hiking & Biking
Crystal Mountain offers an immense network of hiking and biking trails rated from easy to strenuous. Trails depart from the upper gondola station, allowing for leisurely downhill strolls to the base lodge. For a more calorie-burning adventure, start from the base lodge and hike or bike up to nearby lakes, mountain streams or flower-filled meadows. The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the east side of the resort and can be accessed at several locations. Trail maps can be picked up at the resort or downloaded from its website.
If hiking and biking do not register on your fun meter, let a horse provide the muscle while you enjoy the views. Crystal Mountain Outfitters can guide you on a peaceful journey through the solitude and magnificent scenery of the surrounding wilderness.
They have been riding and guiding in the region for more than 10 years. For information, call (509) 895-9120.
Crystal Mountain Disc Golf Course features 27 holes, allowing groups to play two different routes that share the same back nine. The traditional Lower Course starts at the base lodge area and ends on the Exterminator ski run. The Summit Course is accessed via a chairlift on Saturdays and Sundays. Start right at the top of Crystal and play the most intense course anywhere! The course runs across numerous downhill ski runs, allowing players to launch some of the longest disc flights possible anywhere. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots are recommended.
Snorting Elk Cellar and Crystal Mountain hotels have course maps available and custom stamped discs for sale if you didn’t bring one with you. Disc Golf Tournaments are held each summer.
Visitors who like to pitch horseshoes will find two horseshoe pits available.
Crystal Mountain provides a great base camp to experience two scenic drives, the Chinook Scenic Byway and the drive to the Sunrise Visitors Center in Mt. Rainier National Park.
Crystal Mountain is a scant six miles from the northeast entrance to the park and the beginning of a scenic drive to Sunrise, which at 6,400 feet is the highest point that can be traveled by vehicle within the park. During summer, the mountain’s meadows abound with colorful wildflowers. On clear days, Sunrise offers stunning views of Mount Rainier, its many glaciers, and many other Cascade peaks. Great views along with an excellent trail system make Sunrise one of the most visited locations in the park. Hiking options around Sunrise rate from easy to strenuous, with views abounding at every turn.
Recognized as one of the premier driving tours in Washington State, the Chinook Scenic Byway travels through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the east side of Mount Rainier National Park. The byway begins at Enumclaw and goes past the glacier-fed White River, dense forests, waterfalls, up and over spectacular 5,430-foot Chinook Pass and alpine meadows to the fertile valley of the Naches area. Not only will you find breathtaking scenery, but also endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Check out chinoonkscenicbyway.com for more information.
Not only can you eat at the highest restaurant in the state, but also you can camp at what is probably the highest campground in the state offering electrical hookups. Spend a weekend or a week in your RV enjoying everything the mountain has to offer. n
Dave Helgeson and his wife, Cheri, promote RV and manufactured home shows in Western Washington. They spend their free time traveling and enjoying the adventures of the RV lifestyle.