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Spending the night on Rainier ... it takes planning.

Spending the night on takes planning

Because it's so close to I-5 on the west and I-82 on the east, most visitors to Washington's Mount Rainier National Park come and go in a day. But with a little planning, you can have a very different experience of the mountain; you can wave good-by to throngs of day visitors and settle for the night into one of two refurbished lodges. Empty parking lots, trails uncrowded at dawn's first light, and late-evening sunsets that paint the huge volcano in shades of pink are among the rewards of staying overnight. And you don't need the endurance of a backpacker to do it. But with only two lodges here (total capacity 375 guests), you must book well ahead. Reserve now for a July or August visit; most weekends are already booked. Or take a chance on a late cancellation or come in September when crowds thin. Both lodges serve three meals a day.

Renovated National Park Inn reopens

At 2,700 feet, National Park Inn is deep in forest at Longmire; trails beckon into the shadowy woods. The inn has been closed for a complete overhaul since last year. Plans are to welcome guests by early May, and then to remain open all year. Last summer, the 1916 inn was torn down to bare studs and completely rebuilt. Now it boasts 9 additional rooms (total of 25), a new dining room, and a new guest lounge with a fireplace. The entry has been landscaped, parking rearranged. Next door, the enlarged general store has supplies for hikers and campers. Ask about natural history programs at nearby Cougar Rock Campground. The inn is 6 miles from the park's Nisqually entrance. From Seattle, take I-5 south 23 miles to exit 142A, then state highways 161 and 706 about 60 miles.

Gradual changes at Paradise Inn

Just 13 miles farther up winding Paradise Road is Paradise Inn, open May 23 through September 30. At 5,432 feet, it's surrounded by views and flower fields, and dozens of easy hiking trails lead through the meadows, out to waterfalls, and up the mountain. The first phase of rehabilitation is complete (the inn remained open during work). The original 36 rooms (none with bath) have been restored to their 1916 design and period furnishings. The 91-room annex built in the '20s will be renovated over the next several years. Ranger walks and talks begin at the lodge every evening, with natural history presentations following in the lobby. Reserving rooms. A double at National Park costs $40, $59 with bath. At Paradise, it's $45 and $65.

PHOTO : Draped with glaciers, Mount Rainier's massive dome looms behind newly refurbished Paradise

PHOTO : Inn (five-year project was completed last year)

PHOTO : New hanging lamps of hand-painted parchment reproduce 1920s originals at Paradise Inn;

PHOTO : carpets are new, and posts and beams have been braced
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Title Annotation:Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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