Ever since moving to Washington back in 2018, I’ve been interested in riding the Mount Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort. It’s just over an hour from where we live, and it provides access to some of the best views of Mount Rainier… without any of the effort of hiking! The top of Mt. Rainier Gondola sits at an impressive 6,872 feet. The gondola took about 10-15 minutes to ride up to the top and you’ll gain just over 2,400 feet.
From the gondola, you can see panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges including Mount Adams (far left in photo above).
Tips for Riding the Gondola
Check the webcams before you go
Before loading up the car and heading out, I would highly recommend waiting for a clear day and checking the webcams before buying tickets. Since we were up there for the views, we waited for a clear day in July and tacked it on after a hike at Emmons Glacier since we knew the views were going to be clear, and it made for the perfect mountain outing!
Prepare for the elements
If it’s a hot, sunny day, make sure you bring a hat/sunscreen/sunglasses. We were both very thankful for the sun protection while we were there. There’s very little to no shade available, and I heard a few groups around us mentioning they forgot sunscreen and were regretting it. At a higher elevation, you’re more susceptible to UV rays and skin damage, so apply and reapply often! In fact, regardless of the temperature, it is easy to get sunburned at higher altitudes, because there is less of the earth’s atmosphere to block the sunlight. UV exposure increases about 4% for every 1000 ft gain in elevation.
If it’s a cooler season or wind, make sure you bring layers for protection since it’ll be chillier than at the base.
You can hike down or up to the summit
There are maps showing the trail that you can take to get to the top. While I was not up for hiking any more that day, there is an option to hike up to the top and then do the “download only” ticket for the way down. When I saw the “download only” ticket option online, I definitely didn’t read it as what it was, and thought it was a virtual ticket, ha! I believe it’s about 4 miles, but if you’re interested in that option, you can ask the ticket booth for more information when you arrive.
Dogs are allowed!
While we didn’t bring Koda on this adventure, we could’ve as leashed dogs are allowed on the gondola. If we had been only going to the gondola and back, I would’ve considered but since this was a post-hike decision, we didn’t have her in tow. Plus, she would’ve so hot!
On your way back, make a stop at the Wapiti Outdoors. They have delicious huckleberry shakes and lots of other goodies that will feel so rewarding after a long day on the mountain!