MOTHER NATURE’S GARDEN
It’s time to trade the weeds in your yard and the bustle of the city for the wilderness surrounding Mt. Rainer where the wildflowers are bringing the slopes of Crystal Mountain to life. The signs of summer welcome hikers and sightseers with the buzz of bees, butterflies, and birds throughout the lush hillsides spotted with a rainbow of yellow, orange, purple, pink, and blue flowers in bloom. A trip to Crystal Mountain feels like it’s right around the corner at about 105 minutes from Seattle and around 90 minutes from Tacoma.
With a round trip or download options, a trip up the gondola reaching 6,872’ is a breeze, and the views of Mt. Rainer are worth the trip alone. Although, this special experience at this time of the year is in all the shapes, sizes, and colors of pedals. Everyone needs some time to unplug and it’s hard to beat the memories waiting to be made on our trails, especially during the unique and remarkable time when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Hikers can enjoy three different routes to the summit each with unique approaches offering something that will entertain anyone from a family’s first hiking experience to the seasoned trail runner. The route of Silver Creek Trail to Crystal Mountain Trail is a favorite, but the wildflowers are abundant and vary across the mountain from perfectly perched, delicate red columbines to fuzzy, seemingly mop-headed western pasques.
At Silver Creek, you’ll start from the base and head through the trees with cross views of the gondola and mountains. This path will pass an old mining shaft and over small waterfalls and streams before multiple lake stops along the climb into the alpine and eventually to the summit. Around the creeks and in the meadows between Henskin and Elizabeth lakes are one of the best locations to spot fields exploding with vibrant vegetation.
The gondola provides the choice of a ride up then hike down, vice-versa, or roundtrip to soak up the sun, appreciate the wildflowers and take in the views – all without breaking a sweat. Once at the summit, there’s the option to cheers and celebrate a day well spent or to fuel up for a hike to chase the flowers with a quick drink and snack at Tower 16 or a fantastic dining experience at the Summit House. Venturing out along the ridge from the gondola towards the Northway Trail is a bit more off the beaten path where there’s also beautiful blossoms sprinkled between jagged peaks and fields of rocks.
Just be sure to bring your phone and camera fully charged. The flowers have to stay put, but the pictures can be brought home and it’s hard to take a bad photo up here. To have more of the flowers to yourself, plan a midweek trip, and consider heading up soon as the wildflowers are generally at their peak in late-June through August.
Post and Photography by Alex Moreno