Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mt. Rainier, Washington: An ideal Fall Destination

Fall is a fantastic time to explore Mt. Rainier, Washington. The summer crowds have waned and the brilliance of the huckleberry bushes and vine maple is stunning. Fall color peaks mid-October through November although you’ll find fall beauty from mid-September on. I discovered the brilliance of autumn on the mountain one year touring courtesy of Visit Rainier.

Whether you are traveling Chinook Pass, State Route 410, or White Pass, U.S. Highway 12, you will be astounded by the brilliance of fall colors. Cottonwoods, willows, elderberry, aspen, tamarack, and every deciduous tree and shrub is in transition and the colors will amaze you.

Visit one of the Great Lodges of the West
If you love the venerable National Park lodges as I do, you’ll want to put a visit to Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Inn on your list. This year, not only is it the National Park Service Centennial, it’s the 100th Anniversary of Paradise Inn.

The inn is located in the area at the foot of Mt. Rainier originally named Paradise by James Longmire. Longmire thought the glaciers and beautiful wildflowers were, indeed, “paradise.”

The Paradise Inn was built in 1916. It was designed by a Tacoma architect in the rustic open-beam tradition of the National Park lodges. Logs for the inside of the building were hauled to the site by horses. At the time of opening, Paradise Inn had 37 guest rooms and a 400-person dining room. The Inn enabled travelers from Longmire to take a toll road and then, after their long journey, relax and stay overnight.

Today, Paradise Inn is in an area frequently visited. The park’s main visitor’s center is across the large parking lot. Trails to the falls and through beautiful red and yellow fall foliage begin at Paradise.

When you visit, you’ll still see the beautiful woodworking and rustic furniture created by Han Fraehnke, a German carpenter. He hand-built the piano and the grandfather clock in the lobby. There are huge tables and chairs dating back to the time of the original lodge. Visitors love to have their pictures taken sitting in the throne-like log chairs.

The lobby has two open levels. If you look up, you’ll no doubt be intrigued by the huge hanging lamps with wildflower-design shades. They are replicas of the original shades that were hand-painted by park employee’s wives. There are 64 lampshades in Paradise Inn representing the wildflowers so many visitors come to see on Mt. Rainier each Spring.

Paradise Inn is worth exploring. Although it has undergone a renovation, much of it is original and many quaint touches remain. There is a carved log bear in a corner of the lobby inviting visitors to deposit their “bear mail.” Take the stairs to the second level and find a small table to play a board game, write a postcard or check your e-mail.

Today, the Inn has 121 guest rooms, the Paradise Inn Dining Room, Tatoosh Café (kind of a snack bar/coffee shop), gift shop and, of course, the fascinating lobby. There is also an annex with more modern rooms.

The lodge guestrooms are small by today's standards and you can’t expect the modern amenities of televisions, telephones, and internet. Complimentary fluffy guest robes are provided for trips down the hall to the bathroom. By staying in the main lodge (the annex has rooms with private baths) you’ll be able to experience what a National Park Lodge was like in the day when travel to a place like Mt. Rainier was considered an adventure and a luxury.Paradise Inn is open seasonally and closes October 3rd after breakfast this year.

The National Park Inn located in the Longmire Historic District of Mt. Rainier National Park is open year round. The Inn has 25 simple rooms, a casual restaurant and general store located in a vintage 1911 log cabin.
 
Things to Do
Fall at Mt. Rainier is a transitional time. You may have warm sunny days for your day hikes and stops to see the sights or you may encounter an early snow. My September visit was warm and afforded us the opportunity for many scenic day hikes to enjoy the fall foliage and waterfalls. The red vine maple and high elevation huckleberry bushes were full of color. Add in a bright blue sky and the white of the glaciers and you’ll have some great photo opportunities as you hike along the trails or view the mountain from the lodge or visitor’s center. Visit Rainier has a helpful list of fall hikes at Mt. Rainier.

In Elbe you’ll find the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum. In fall, the railroad schedules special events such as The Great Pumpkin Patch Express and The Washington Wine Express.

Visit Rainier has other great ideas including geocaching, mushroom foraging and huckleberry picking.

More Information
Visit Mt. Rainier