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A glimpse of Paradise

Where to stay on Mount Rainier

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Paradise: a word meaning a walled garden

From almost any place around Puget Sound, it’s possible to enjoy the many guises of Mount Rainier, the state’s most conspicuous tourist attraction. But if an overnight stay within Mount Rainier National Park is what you seek, keep reading.

After being closed for a two and a half year makeover, Paradise Inn reopened in mid-May. Established in 1917, the lodge is located at approximately 5,400 feet above sea level and is just one of several varieties of accommodations available on this dormant volcano.  Paradise Inn, however, has been the lodging of choice for almost a century.

With its makeover work done by Tacoma-based contractor John Korsmo Construction, who teamed up with Watts Construction of California, the $20 million renovation has primarily stabilized the historic national park lodge.

Seven handicapped-accessible guestrooms have been added to the lodge’s 114 original rooms. Neither cell phone nor Internet access has been added. Paradise truly is a place where it’s possible to get away from it all.

The warm, cozy, 25-room National Park Inn at Longmire is another in-park overnight option. It is located about seven miles east of the park’s west entrance on State Road 706. The inn’s verandah, equipped with a row of tall, mountain-facing wooden chairs, is a popular spot in any season for peak Paradise gazing — provided there are no low-hanging clouds veiling the view of the majestic ice cream sundaelike feature.

This inn also contains a full-service restaurant. There’s a large stone fireplace across the lobby that offers a cozy spot to warm up on rainy or snowy days. The nearby gift shop is stocked with a range of mountain-themed gifts. Two structures next to the lodge, including the now defunct last gas station on the mountain, house historical displays and additional hiking information.

Across the road from the inn is a mile-long loop of an easy walking, pine needle carpeted path known as the Trail of the Shadows, where intermittent informational markers explain the attraction’s history.

Several mineral wells and one of the original cabins from Longmire’s era have been preserved along the route. One section of the trail is noticeably aromatic in the spring when the newest crop of skunk cabbages blooms.

According to park literature, the present inn replaced an earlier spa resort (circa late 1880s) that was destroyed by fire in 1926. Onetime climbing guide James Longmire is credited with building the first inn. The park’s administration building is west of the inn.

Although no proof exists, there’s an unsubstantiated possibility that Longmire coined the now-famous Washington phrase “it’s the water” when he began touting nearby mineral springs as a prime reason to stay at his resort. Nowadays, signs posted near those sites advise visitors not to sample the sulfurous elixir.

The Rampart Ridge Trail spurs off from the Trail of Shadows. The investment of sweat and perseverance rewards persistent hikers with an awesome view of the white-cloaked mountain on the homeward stretch. Sturdy shoes, plenty of water and stout walking sticks are recommended.

After a full day of exploring, take time to sit in one of the inn’s chairs and enjoy the setting. Surrounded by mountains cloaked in evergreen vegetation, it’s a lot like sitting in a walled garden — almost Paradise.

Phone 360.569.2275 or go online to reserve a room at one of these lodges.

Visit John Korsmo Construction’s Web site and access the Paradise project link to view the changes at Paradise, including progress on the adjacent visitor center set to open in October.

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