Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hike of ... a while ago : Crystal Mountain Summit House

A couple of weeks ago we needed to do a 2.5 - 3 hour hike... but wanted to go somewhere new, and get some elevation gain under our boots... so a one-way hike up to the Crystal Mountain Summit House seemed like a perfect fit. Okay, so our hike was only 2 hours long, but it was all uphill! 

The ski area's website said that as of the week prior, there was still enough snow on some trails that hikers weren't sure where the trail went. So we played it safe and took Kelley's Gap Road to the Green Valley Trail. 

We started off from the large, almost empty parking lot a little before 8am. We would be going up. 

The road wasn't very scenic, but every so often would open up to a nice view to show how quickly we were ascending.

Up and up we went, mostly in the sunshine.

It's always a little disconcerting to not be able to see where you're aiming for, but we just kept going up. 

Nope, still can't see the "summit".

We crossed a small creek -- lovely and cool and refreshing.

Then across that scree field, very dusty...

And, always, up.

The wildflowers were in bloom, too; I didn't take a lot of photos but liked that there are at least 6 different flowers visible in this shot.

Eventually we reached the top of Kelley's Gap Road, and joined a likely "Green Valley Trail". There were actually a few small trails here, so we just picked one and -- though we did make one turn onto a larger track -- it turned out to be the correct trail.

Green Valley was, indeed, green.

Even if we did wonder how people ski between all those trees...

We continued up -- noting our first glance, in the distance, of the Summit House.

And, eventually, the first peeping glance of Mount Rainier's summit. By the way, yeah, the trail was pretty rocky here!

 It's also possible, obviously, to take the gondola up and hike down; but where the fun in that?

We arrived at the "top" and had it pretty much to ourselves for a little while.

We also saw the trail marker for the top end of the Crystal Mountain trail, which I'd like to hike up some other time.

And even though we didn't see or hear any elk, we saw some evidence...

Seriously, what a gorgeous day!

 We sat down in the chairs near the restaurant and soon had some company. Little beggar.

I could look at this picture ALL DAY. 

Eventually, the restaurant opened we got a perfect table at the edge of the patio.

Beers + small plate of fries = our reward!

But it was getting oddly crowded at the top -- crowds of folks coming up the gondola, each carrying a trekking pole they had borrowed for their "hike"... So after finishing up we got our "download" tickets (half price for just going downhill, just like at the Grouse Grind) and then rode down.

I'd like to do this hike again -- well, a different trail up -- and I think we'll add this to our "places to take visitors in the summer" because it's so freakin' glorious. 


Crystal Mountain Summit via Kelley's Gap Road and the Green Valley Trail
3.4 miles
2444 ft elevation gain

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