Hiking, Backpacking, Camping

Day Hike to Bench & Snow Lakes in Mount Rainier National Park

During my first visit back to Seattle after moving away, I didn't have much time, but needed to bring my Mom on a hike to show her the beauty of Washington, and she really wanted to see Mount Rainier! After grabbing our rental car from Sea Tac, we drove south to Paradise to see the Mountain in all her fall glory. And since we were short on time and daylight, the super short and easy hike to Bench & Snow Lakes was right up our alley!




  • Date: 9.30.16

  • Miles: 2.5 mi

  • Elevation Profile: +/- 950 ft

  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back

  • Cost: Mount Rainier National Park Entrance Fee, or National Interagency Passes



The trail starts essentially right off of the main road (the trailhead parking is a medium-sized road pull-out) and gradually begins climbing through the trees.


Pretty quickly, the trail opens up for a bit and you're surrounded by shrubs which are beautiful in the fall and contrast so nicely against the fir trees. 


At less than 0.75 miles, you'll see a split in the trail. Turn left to head down to Bench lake, which offers a beautiful reflection of Mount Rainier, if it's a clear day. And it's such a short detour, you must do it!

Bench Lake from the trail

Bench Lake from the trail

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After another half mile, and a little bit of elevation gain, you'll arrive at Snow Lake! There's lots of room to hike along the lake and find a nice spot to have lunch. If you venture to the north end of the lake, you'll see a few backpacking camp spots with stellar views of the lake! If you do want to backpack here, it is perfect for beginners! There is a pit toilet (with absolutely no doors! - follow the signs) and a pole for hanging your food.

Unicorn Peak towering over Snow Lake

Unicorn Peak towering over Snow Lake

After relaxing around the lake, it's time to head back the way you came! You'll be graced with views of Mount Rainier most of the time.


If you're someone who likes to get the most bang out of your buck, or don't have time for a full-day hike in Mount Rainier, this is the hike for you! If you're looking for some other short mini-hikes in the Paradise area, check out Reflection Lakes, Christine & Narada Falls, and the Nisqually Vista Loop Trail. And if you're looking for something longer, check out the Skyline Trail!