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Reflection and Louise Lakes Snowshoe

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This trail stays right along the edge of timber line, making it one of the most spectacular routes for snowshoers (and cross-country skiers) in Mount Rainier National Park. The trail provides a wonderful experience in a winter forest, the chance to visit a frozen alpine lake, and subalpine meadows in which to play and soak up the scenery.

From the upper end of the parking area, go right along a plowed driveway, passing a warming hut and restrooms, as well as a long maintenance shed, to find the trail. If the snow is stable and not too deep, climb the steep, open slope directly ahead to reach the main trail. If conditions are icy, or the climb looks too steep, follow the orange blazes to the left through the trees as the trail parallels the bottom of the hill. Soon you'll begin angling uphill and will quickly top out on a wide, level trail--it is actually the Paradise-Stevens Canyon Road.

Turn right, and snowshoe along this road as it loops out around the flank of Inspiration Point. The road quickly bears to the left and enters a long corridor in the forest. The way has little elevation gain, but it can't be called level because the snow rolls through tree wells and snowdrifts.

This trail through the trees brings you right to the edge of Reflection Lakes at 1.5 miles--although don't count on seeing your reflection because the lakes stay frozen over until June. That doesn't mean, however, that the ice is safe. This is an active volcano, and all that geothermal power keeps warm springs bubbling around and in most of the lakes in the area. That, in turn, keeps the ice on the lake surface thin and dangerous. But do take some time and expend a little energy exploring this lake basin and enjoying the stunning views of Mount Rainier, as well as the jagged line of peaks in the Tatoosh Range to the south.

From Reflection Lakes, push on east along the road as it curves through a big southern bend and then drops nearly 300 feet in 1 mile to loop down to the shore of Louise Lake. If the snow is stable, drop off the road just as it enters that big bend and angle down the slope directly to the lakeshore.

A camp on the eastern edge of the lake offers great views of a climbing route up Mount Rainier--someone always seems to be making an attempt at the summit. You'll also find that a camp on the east slope above the lake gives you a fantastic surprise in the morning--a stunning sunrise as the towering peak of Mount Rainier starts to glow first and then the sunlight moves slowly downslope until the entire 14,411-foot peak is brightly lit.

Author’s Rating: More Difficult
Some previous snowshoe experience helpful. Some winter survival skills recommended (basic knowledge of avalanche evaluation, emergency shelter construction, etc.). Elevation gain is usually less than 1000 feet with a gradual slope.
Driving Directions:

To get there, drive east from Tacoma on State Route 7 and bear left onto SR 706 at the town of Elbe. Continue east through the Nisqually Entrance of the park, and proceed to the Narada Falls View Area parking lot, which is kept plowed each winter.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 20 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Reflection and Louise Lakes Snowshoe — Mar 12, 2014 — Niko Niko
Day hike
Issues: Avalanche danger
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Since today was such a beautiful day, I decided to head up to Mount Rainier for a snowshoe adventure...
Since today was such a beautiful day, I decided to head up to Mount Rainier for a snowshoe adventure. I really should have headed up to Panorama Point or somewhere higher to see the views, but I stopped at Narada Falls and decided to just wander around the lakes.

The trail to Reflection Lake from Narada Falls currently has an avalanche risk - I snowshoed over this avalanche slope on my way to Reflection Lake and, though it seemed stable enough, I chose to take an alternate route back to the falls parking lot. Just as you get to the Stevens-Canyon Road from Narada Falls parking lot, there are a couple signs showing alternate routes. The entire area is marked with wands and signs, so getting lost is pretty difficult, especially on such a nice day.

If you prefer the route with less avalanche danger, head to the lakes via Mazama Ridge. I got a bit confused on my way back since the trail branches off several times, but kept heading downhill and making left hand turns :) Several kind hikers helped point me in the right direction as well.

I hiked out past Louise Lake to the area where you can turn off to hike to Bench Lake. I didn't go out to find it since I have no idea what that trail should look like, but hiking out on Stevens-Canyon Road for a while was very pleasant and peaceful. I didn't see any other hikers until I made my return trip up on Mazama Ridge.

It's beautiful up there! Great views of Rainier and the Tatoosh peaks from the trail.
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Reflection and Louise Lakes Snowshoe — Dec 28, 2013 — Bassbone1975
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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This was the 3rd snowshoe hike of the season for my fiancee and myself. The weather really couldn't...
This was the 3rd snowshoe hike of the season for my fiancee and myself. The weather really couldn't have been any better. The grade was very easy and the trail (road) was very wide. Excellent views of Mt. Rainier, Narada Falls and the Tatoosh range. I heartily recommend this short (2.5-3 mi) hike!

FYI, you are not supposed to park your car at the Stevens Canyon intersection. Park at Narada Falls and hike up along the Paradise river instead.
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Reflection and Louise Lakes Snowshoe — Mar 03, 2013 — cindykru
Snowshoe/XC Ski
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A slightly overcast day limited views on this day snowshoe. Not much new snow, so the snowshoe path...
A slightly overcast day limited views on this day snowshoe. Not much new snow, so the snowshoe path was a bit crunchy and narrow. I prefer this route when there's a good amount of fresh snow making it easy to meander along the path, which is well marked with flags up to Reflection Lakes. Overall conditions were good - we stayed off the steeps over Narada Falls as the avalanche conditions were moderate. A note to fellow hikers/snowshoers. The route goes up and then down to the lakes, ensuring a climb both coming and going. I didn't have an altimeter, but sure felt like the elevation gain was more than listed here, perhaps because of that reverse climb. A few views of the Tatoosh range on the way out. The warming hut/comfort station is a real plus at this trailhead. The road up to Narada Falls was clear.
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Reflection and Louise Lakes Snowshoe — Jan 16, 2013 — Nutmeg
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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I have always done the snowshoe from Narada to Reflection and Louise Lakes as a Paradise alternative...
I have always done the snowshoe from Narada to Reflection and Louise Lakes as a Paradise alternative for cloudy days. My husband and I decided to try it on a mostly sunny day for variety. Oh. My. GOSH!!!!! The Tatooshes, the valleys, and the MOUNTAIN!!!! Go do this on a sunny day, I implore you! You will not regret it. Pics are at: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/

The trail starts up to the left just after the comfort station at Narada Falls parking area, and that first few feet are the steepest of the whole trek by far. The trail is well blazed (usually by tracks, but also poles) and goes up through the trees to the road. Take a right. At the first junction, go left if the avalanche danger is high. If conditions are safe, stay straight on the road for spectacular views of the Tatooshes and Rainier (behind you). The gorgeous views persist at Reflection Lake, and many hikers turn around here, presumably overcome by the splendor. After stopping for lunch on the lake (less pesky camp robbers in the middle), we continued to Louise Lake, going down a rather direct route, across the lake, then out the other side and back along the road. We returned from Reflection Lake using the high (avalanche safer) route. In all our trip was 7.4 miles and ~1,300' gain, non-stop jaw dropping.
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Reflection and Louise Lakes Snowshoe — Dec 09, 2012 — B_Ritchie
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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Snowshoed up to both lakes. The road up wasn't bad -- just a dusting of snow, though they were tell...
Snowshoed up to both lakes. The road up wasn't bad -- just a dusting of snow, though they were telling non-4WD driver cars to put on chains. Narada parking lot wasn't real full when we got up there, around 11:30.

We took the path strait up the hillside to meet up with the closed road. Some previous folks had dug a switchback trail up, which helped, but it was still a tough climb with some deep powdery or icy spots. Also seems like it's steep enough for the snow to slide if conditions are right. Would only recommend if you're comfortable with steep climbs.

After joining the main road,the path to Reflection Lake was easy. The snow was pretty well-packed here, and the path pretty level. We then headed down to Louise, but the tracks petered out to just one ski track, and the powder deepened for some reason, so it got to be quite a bit more work, even with a downhill grade. We didn't see an easy way to get to Louise (lots of tree wells in the way), and it was starting to sleet/rain fairly hard, so we just turned around.

It's a long slow climb back up to Reflection Lake, though at least we had our previous track to help a bit. By the time we got back to the hillside, our folks didn't want to go down the steep way so we continued on. We also passed by the trail the guide mentions, as we weren't sure it was the right one, so we ended up going down the road. Not a good idea! Besides the fact that it's a lot longer, and less than scenic, the blind corners and nonexistent shoulder made this pretty dangerous. (As far as I can tell from an aerial map, the trail you want to take is right before a bridge.)

One bright spot of the roundabout return trip: we saw a fox where the closed road meets the plowed road, was mugging for the camera and probably hoping for a snack. Fortunately it decided to vacate the road after a few photos.

Overall, a nice walk, though we were thwarted a bit by the weather and a lack of familiarity. Unless you really want to challenge yourself going up the hillside, I'd look for the "real" trail from the parking lot to the closed road, so you'll know where it is on the way back.
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reflection lakes hikingqueen.jpg
Reflection Lake in winter. Photo by Hikingqueen.
Location
Mt. Rainier -- SE - Longmire / Paradise
Mt. Rainier National Park
Statistics
Roundtrip 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain 560 ft
Highest Point 5100 ft
Features
Lakes
Mountain views
User info
Dogs not allowed
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails: Mount Rainier East No. 270,
Paradise No. 270S

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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46.7666069 -121.6990741
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