This Easy Mt. Rainier Trail Offers Up Iconic Views Without the Crowds

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and it helps support our future adventures.

The Paradise side of Mt. Rainier is one of our favorite places in the world. So it’s no surprise that it is the favorite place for A LOT of other people as well.

This means that many spots with the best mountain views, like Skyline Trail, Myrtle Falls, and Reflection Lake, are always jam-packed with people.

There is one trail, though, on this side of the mountain that is both relatively easy (a rarity for hikes in this mountainous terrain) and typically uncrowded. Part of this is due to the trailhead’s small parking lot and lack of alternative parking options.

On this hike, you’ll pass through dense stands of forest and past huckleberry-loaded bushes to a lake with a picture-perfect reflection of the mighty Mt. Rainier.

Amazing view of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake
Photo Credit:

Bench and Snow Lake Trail

Located just 1.5 miles down the road from the popular Reflection Lake, the trailhead for Bench and Snow Lake Trail is nothing more than a small pull-off with room for around 20 cars. This means that the parking lot can fill up early, but it also means that this short trail remains relatively uncrowded.

The trail immediately heads uphill into the woods for the first quarter mile. While the trail climbs steadily, it is never all that steep. This makes the trail great for kids as it is short and flat enough that they should be able to handle it with no problem.

Eventually, the trail breaks out into an open forest with abundant huckleberry bushes alongside it.

Black Bear foraging for berries on Mt Rainier, Washington
Photo Credit:

It was here that we saw a large pile of bear scat so if you’re hiking in the fall months be sure to pack some bear spray as you won’t be the only one after these tasty mountain berries.

Bench Lake

In just under 3/4 mile, you’ll reach the cut-off for the picturesque Bench Lake. The trail down to the lake is short but steep, with some large steps, so be careful along this stretch.

Once you arrive at the lake, you can spread out along the sandy shore and take in the absolutely stunning views of Mt. Rainier.

Wildflowers of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington
Photo Credit:

On a clear day, the reflection of the mountain in the lake is second to none.

When we arrived at the lake, the mountain was completely socked in, but within 15 minutes, the clouds lifted and revealed the prize hidden behind them.

Even though we were there on a busy Labor Day weekend, we were the only ones at the lake for the entire 30 minutes we spent there. This gave us plenty of room to spread out and take all the photos we wanted without worrying about bumping into someone else.

Bench Lake vs Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake with Mt Rainier in the background. Sunny summer day. Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park, Washington, United States of America.
Photo Credit:

Just a mile and a half up the road from Bench Lake is the popular roadside attraction, Reflection Lake. During sunset, photographers will line the road in hopes of grabbing a shot of the mountain reflecting off the lake while bathed in alpenglow.

The problem is that so many people trampled the lake shore over the years that it has since been closed, and you’re now required to stay back from the edge.

This makes capturing a reflection shot quite a bit more difficult than in years past!

With Bench Lake, you can walk right down to the sandy shoreline, set up a shot, and wait for the perfect moment while enjoying the sound of silence instead of cars passing directly behind you!

Continuing on to Snow Lake

Snow Lake at Mt. Rainier
Photo Credit:

The trail continues past Bench Lake for another 1/4 mile to Snow Lake. This turquoise-colored alpine lake has a totally different feel than neighbor Bench Lake, as it is surrounded by tall peaks. While it doesn’t offer views of Mt. Rainier, it is picture-perfect in its own right.

Here, you’ll find a couple of backcountry camping spots, swimming holes, and a shallow but muddy entry into the lake near the southwest end.

The trail to the lake involves a steep but short climb, but don’t let this deter you from visiting—it really is a beautiful spot.

The trail to visit both lakes is only 2.2 miles long and has a 450-foot elevation change, so it is a must-do short hike when visiting the Paradise side of Mt. Rainier National Park.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest