We’ve been visiting Mount Rainier National Park for decades. We’ve stayed at all kinds of lodging on the west (Ashford) and east (Packwood) side of the Mountain, from campgrounds to B&Bs.
Here’s how I break down lodging near Mount Rainier. Factors include amenities, cost, cleanliness and service, proximity to the park, and “most bang for your buck.” I’ve broken them down into lodging on the Ashford (west) side of the park and on the Packwood (east) side of the park. I’ve also included our #1 favorite, again based on two decades of visits to and stays at the park.
Ashford (West Side)
National Park Inn, Longmire
- Located inside the park
- Has its own dining room and is right next to the Longmire General Store
- Right across the street from Longmire Meadow and the easy Trail of the Shadows
- Stunning views of Mount Rainier from the Inn’s spacious veranda
- Teeny-tiny rooms. Two is a crowd.
- Zero amenities
- Private baths are extra
- Waaaay over-priced.
Gateway Inn & Motel
- Located just a few feet from the Nisqually entrance
- The cabins are very basic and look like a thousand other cabins
- Our cabin windows didn’t open. So the inside air was stale and dank.
- The place is rather dingy. It feels tired and rundown. Needs an upgrade.
Packwood (East side)
Cowlitz River Lodge
This lodge and its sister lodge on the Ashford side, the Nisqually Lodge, are quite possibly the biggest rip-offs in the area.
We used to stay at the the Cowlitz River Lodge every time we visited the east side of the park. Both lodges changed hands a few years back, resulting in STEEP rate increases. (You can watch elk graze for free just down the road.)
- No pool or restaurant
- Basic motel-type rooms
- Ridiculously over-priced
The Hotel Packwood
- Probably the cheapest accommodations near the park
- Probably the cheapest accomodations near the park. (That’s not a typo.)
- The rooms are Lilliputian, with no amenities (No TV, microwave, micro fridge, etc. Communal bathrooms.)
- This place may be inexpensive and they say Teddy Roosevelt stayed here. Apparently nothing has been upgraded since.
- Rundown and shabby.
So when it comes to places to stay at Mount Rainier, we’ve been to quite a few. Some are better than others. Our numero uno favorite?
Mountain Meadows Inn, hands down.
Located in Ashford about ten minutes-ish from the park’s Nisqually entrance, the Inn offers rest and relaxation in a rustic park-like setting. The chalet suites are So. Darn. Cute. We’re talking sweet suites. Nestled in a tranquil setting crocheted with bird song, soaring conifers and a splendid, carefully manicured meadow, the suites are Private. Quiet. Charming.
There’s no boxy, one-size-fits-all, seen-one-seen-‘em-all, hotel chain-type feel to the Inn. No siree, Bob! Much care and personal attention are given to fine details. In fact, pulling into the driveway feels like coming home.
Pluses and Unique touches include:
- Vintage wall hangings, rugs (Garden suite) and décor. Check out the “cowboy boots” lamp on the night stand in the two-bedroom Garden suite.
- Baseboard heating in each room and the bathroom
- Superior cleanliness and comfort
- Spacious rooms with lots of light
- Microwaves, mini fridges, toaster ovens, kitchenettes
- Quiet, park-like setting
- Outdoor fire pit and hot tub
- Outstanding staff
- A GREAT value!
Breakfast includes milk and fruit juices, yogurt, bagels, and breakfast burritos. Check out the wind-up snow globes on the bedroom window sill. (Bonus points if you can name the tune the Garden suite globe plays. Think “Seattle.”)
The owners, Ralph and Chris Coleman, go out of their way to make sure your stay is pleasant and enjoyable. This includes:
- Hanging a mini-flashlight on a peg above the key-pad entry at the door so you don’t have to guess at numbers if checking in at night.
- Twinkling indoor lights and soothing music.
- An extensive notebook chock full of area sites, “must-sees” and recreational opportunities on the table when you arrive.
Did I mention snacks waiting on the table upon your arrival? Or the DIY indoor S’more toaster with all the fixin’s in case you don’t want to take advantage of the outdoor fire pit or hot tub?
Note: If you’re not a fan of body wash, you may want to BYO bar of soap and hand lotion. There are no closets or dressers in the Garden suite, but wall pegs and hangers are available in the hall to the bathroom. There’s also plenty of hot water to wash away a day on the trail. Ditto free Wi Fi and Direct TV.
A primo place to relax and unwind, Mountain Meadows Inn offers senior, military, and returning guest discounts. Best value in town.
If camping is more your speed, see my post on Mount Rainier Campgrounds.