Paradise Found

A historic inn on Mt. Rainier welcomes a new generation of visitors

By: Marty Wentzel

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The Paradise Inn is located in
Mt. Rainier National Park.
If your clients’ idea of paradise involves majestic snow-capped peaks and acres of wilderness ripe for exploration, tell them about Washington’s very own Paradise, a destination on the south slope of Mount Rainier. There, at the 5,400-foot elevation, a historic accommodation is getting a major makeover while a new visitor center goes up next door.

Located in Mt. Rainier National Park, Paradise Inn is one of the Northwest’s oldest mountain resorts, and for decades it has served as a starting point for climbers planning to ascend 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier. Built in 1916 and open since July 1917, the National Historic Landmark features massive timbers and glacial boulders that blend with the natural surroundings. Its distinctive appearance and setting have drawn the likes of President Harry Truman, who played a few tunes on the inn’s rustic piano during a surprise visit in 1945.

Paradise Inn can only operate from May through September, closing during the winter months when an average of 630 inches of snow falls in the Paradise area, earning it the nickname of the snowiest place on earth.

Aware of the toll that such harsh elements take on the building itself, the National Park Service decided to shutter the property during the 2006 and 2007 seasons for a multi-million-dollar rehabilitation. Much of the emphasis has been on upgrading the structural components and modifying fire protection systems. Repairs are under way in the dining room and lobby, and handicap-accessible rooms have been planned for the main floor adjacent to the lobby.

When it reopens this May, the lodge will offer 121 guestrooms, said Mt. Rainier guest services spokesperson Pam Newlun.

“The sizes of the inn’s accommodations vary due to the historic nature of the overall property,” said Newlun. “Some rooms still share baths just as they did when the first guests arrived in 1917. In their rooms, clients will find old hickory-style furniture, and our exclusion of in-room televisions or telephones ensures a peaceful and relaxing stay.”

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The inn is surrounded by stunning
scenery and miles of hiking trails.
The inn lays claim to a 50- by 112-foot great hall with massive stone fireplaces at each end and distinctive furniture handcrafted out of Alaska cedar. In the equally impressive dining room, up to 200 people can savor such celebrated dishes as Bourbon Buffalo Meatloaf while enjoying the ambience and warmth of a massive stone fireplace. Clients might want to time their visit so they can try the inn’s popular weekly brunch, offered from the last Sunday in May until the last Sunday in September. Additional amenities include a small post office, gift shop known for its Native American crafts and cafe serving soups, sandwiches, beverages and ice cream.

Along with the rewarding experience of staying in one of the great lodges of the West, Paradise Inn provides clients with a central location for exploring Mt. Rainier National Park and the miles of hiking trails just outside the front door. Guests are greeted with majestic panoramas of Mount Rainier and nearby Nisqually Glacier, while flowering meadows surround the lodge. During the summer, clients can go horseback riding, hiking, biking and fishing, while winter attracts downhill and cross-country skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, sledders and snowmobilers.

While construction continues on the inn, crews are building a new Paradise Visitor Center adjacent to it. Slated for completion in August, with exhibits installed in October, the 22,000-square-foot center will embrace displays, a book and gift store, food service and an informative film.

According to National Park Service spokesperson Lee Taylor, the visitor center aims to provide guests with background about the geology and plant and animal life of Mt. Rainier.

“The new visitor center has been designed to fit in harmoniously with the National Historic Landmark District that encompasses the inn as well as many other roads and buildings in the park,” said Taylor. “Like other buildings in Paradise, it has a steep-pitched roof necessary for shedding heavy snowfall. It matches the feel of the area in terms of its use of wood and stone, and it has large windows to showcase the spectacular views.”

As Paradise Inn celebrates its 90th year, clients should set aside a date to pay a visit to this lofty landmark once it has reopened. It may just turn out to be their Paradise Found.


Paradise Inn

The inn is already taking reservations for its May 2008 reopening. Estimated nightly rates are $150 for a room with a private bath and $109 for shared bath.

Commission: 5 percent