In 2023, my wife and I came back to Mt Rainier on a self-guided tour to discover more wonders.
Along the way, we stopped at Rocky Point on Alder Lake to admire the view and grab a few photos.
You can usually capture some great photos of Mt Rainier from this point, but today was a cloudy day with a chance of rain, so we didn’t glimpse Mt Rainier until much later.
Interesting facts: Mount Rainier is an active volcano that last erupted about 1,000 years ago.
After driving for 6.5 miles (ca. 10 km) from the park entrance, we reached the Longmire National Historic District, which includes the Longmire Museum, a Visitor Center, and Paradise Inn.
Across from the lodge, you can hike through the Trail of Shadows, an easy .7-mile hike through trees, creeks, and meadows. Looking closely, you can see that the Beavers were busy building their dams across the creek.
We next visited Christine Falls, a 69-foot (ca. 21 m) high waterfall with a picturesque Bridge spanning the lower drop. The upper drop is 32 feet (ca. 10 m) high and is almost impossible to film in tandem with the lower tier.
This fall is about 10 miles (ca. 16 km) from the park’s Nisqually Entrance on Paradise Road to get to a small parking pullout.
You only get a glimpse of the waterfall as you drive in or from the car park. You must walk down to the overlook point to get the best view. But once you make it down, you will be rewarded with a great view of the cascading water.
Interesting Fact: Christine Falls was named in honor of Christine Van Trump, the daughter of P. B. Van Trump, one of the first climbers of Mount Rainier.
The Christine Falls Bridge was built in 1931 and is a popular photography spot. The bridge offers a stunning view of the falls and the surrounding forest.
To reach the bridge, walk across the road and follow the path up. You can admire the upper waterfall from the bridge and see the water cascading below you to the lower fall.
After parking, we walked down a short path to an overlook point with a magnificent view of the waterfalls.
Narada Falls is a two-tiered waterfall, with the upper tier dropping 168 feet (ca. 51 m) and the lower tier dropping 20 feet (ca. 6 m). The Paradise River feeds the falls, which originate on the slopes of Mount Rainier.
There are two ways to view Narada Falls. The first is to park in the small parking area at the top of the falls and walk down the short trail to the overlook. This is the best way to see the entire waterfall.
The second way to view Narada Falls is to hike to the bottom of the falls. To achieve this, you must take the Narada Falls Trail, which starts at the parking area at the top of the falls. The trail is 0.2 miles (ca. 322 m) long and descends 200 feet (ca. 61 m).
The hike to the bottom of Narada Falls is relatively easy, but it can be slippery and muddy. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and clothing.
Once you reach the bottom of the falls, you will be rewarded with a close-up view of the rushing water. You can also walk behind the falls and feel the mist on your face.
If you prefer not to hike at all, you can still get a nice view of the fall from the bridge next to the parking lot.
The lakes are named for their ability to reflect the image of Mount Rainier, creating a stunning mirror-like effect, and it is also a place for peaceful reflection.
The lakes are surrounded by subalpine meadows and wildflowers, making them a beautiful summer hike spot.
We spent some time walking along the path surrounding the lakes and had a picnic lunch while admiring the views.
Reflection Lakes is a popular spot for photography, especially in the morning and evening when the light is best. The lakes are also a popular spot for wildlife viewing, with deer, marmots, and pikas being commonly seen in the area.
Important note: Be sure to stay on the trails to help protect the delicate ecosystem, and Leave no trace to keep the park clean and beautiful for future visitors.
Hike from Narada Falls to Reflection Lakes
Although we didn’t attempt this hike, it is worth mentioning here.
The hike from Narada Falls to Reflection Lakes is a moderate 1.5-mile out-and-back trail. The trail begins at the Narada Falls parking lot and follows the Narada Falls Trail downhill to a junction with the Wonderland Trail.
The hike is mostly shaded, with some open meadows along the way. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. There are a few steep sections, but the hike is not too challenging overall.
Bench & Snow Lakes
Our final stop on this self-exploration tour of the park was supposed to be at Bench & Snow Lakes.
We discovered that the only way to reach those two lakes is via a short hike. The parking lot at the bottom of the trail was full, so we turned back, vowing to come back in the near future.
You can find a detailed hiking guide here: https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/bench-and-snow-lakes.