Imagine the perfect picture of Mount Rainier, and the image in your head probably includes a mirror-like reflection of the mountain in a peaceful lake. There are several places in Mount Rainier National Park where you can take such a photo, and none is easier to access than Reflection Lakes.
The Reflection Lakes are located east of Paradise, along Stevens Canyon Road, before the road begins its descent into the canyon. The lakes (one big lake, and a few small ones) are just steps away from the parking area at the side of the road. You could hike all the way around the lakes, making a 2.75-mile loop, but the best views will be the ones with the mountain in the background, which require hardly any walking at all.
Of all the incredible, breathtaking photos of Mount Rainier that have been taken at this spot, this is not one of them. I admit it. In order to get a fantastic picture of the mountain, I would have needed to be here early in the morning or late in the evening, and the wind would have needed to be perfectly calm, to keep the ripples to a minimum. At least the lakes were a liquid, not a solid; they can remain frozen until mid-summer, depending on the harshness of the winter. If I had been here a few weeks later, I might have captured some nice fall colors in the brush surrounding the lake’s edge.
It would also have helped if the mountain had been clear, but those stubborn clouds refused to budge.
Despite the obvious flaws, I still tried to find a few good spots for photos. I had no intention of walking all the way around the lakes, but I did go back-and-forth along the southern side (along the road). Getting close to the edge of the water was difficult, since the ground was muddy, and most places were marked as restricted.
Reflection Lakes provides a good, short stop, before tackling the trail that begins on the opposite side of the road, the Pinnacle Saddle Trail.