Late Sep through early Oct is a terrific time to experience fall colors in the Mt. Rainier National Park. A friend from the bay area and I booked a room for one night at the beautiful Paradise Inn for September 30. As the Stevens Canyon Road was closed due to repairs, we limited our photography to around Paradise. Unfortunately, we couldn’t check out the area around Tipsoo Lake. We ended up hitting 5 spots during the visit.
Reflection Lakes (46.768432, -121.727745)
We reached Reflection Lakes at around 5pm to shoot sunset. As sunset was at 7pm, we had plenty of time to scout for a good spot. There were hardly any clouds but at around 630pm, some magically showed up. Although we didn’t encounter any fall foliage around the lakes, the sunset was sublime. Time spent there was worth every second.
Inspiration Point (46.773020, -121.743991)
After shooting the sunset at Reflection Lakes, we drove back to Paradise Inn for dinner. On the way, we stopped for a few minutes at Inspiration Point, a terrific spot to shoot the layers of the mountain range facing west. I grabbed a couple of colorful shots.
We checked into the Inn at 8pm and had a terrific dinner. Below is a shot of the beautiful lobby of Paradise Inn.
Next morning, we left the Inn at 6 and went back to Reflection Lakes expecting to photograph early morning fog at sunrise. Unfortunately, the fog decided to take the day off. We returned to the Henry Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. Best fall colors can be seen right behind the Visitor Center.
Henry Jackson Visitor Center @ Paradise (46.786572, -121.736490)
Photography along the many trails around the Visitor Center just after sunrise is always productive. We did a short hike towards Myrtle Falls on the Skyline Trail which happens to be my favorite trail at Paradise. We did not see many colors and we returned to the Visitor Center. We realized that the best colors were just behind the Visitor Center after you climb up the steps with a terrific quote attributed to John Muir. We spent about two and a half hours and got some good images.
Mt. Rainier Viewpoint along Stevens Canyon Rd (46.764030, -121.696008)
About 2.25 miles east of Reflection Lakes on Stevens Canyon Road there is a terrific spot where you can shoot the mountain with bushes. There is space to park 2 to 3 cars at the spot. If you walk about 100 yards north, you can shoot the mountain with the bushes in the foreground. We reached the spot a tad after 9 and grabbed a few shots.
Sunbeam Creek (46.765944, -121.718178)
On our way back to the Inn, we stopped at the Sunbeam Creek. Although there was just a trickle of water, there was a cool looking bush that I photographed with my iPhone.
We returned to the Inn at around 10 and checked out. I got a good shot of the entrance to the Inn before leaving.
It was sad to observe lack of any ice along the Nisqually Glacier. Tweny years ago, you could see some snow and ice from the bridge across the Nisqually River during this time of the year but not anymore :-(.
We exited the park at around 1130. Looks like that is the peak hour for folks coming into the park. The traffic backup was close to 4 miles from the pay station at the Nisqually entrance. We stopped at Elbe for a terrific pizza at Pizza Express. I highly recommend the restaurant for a relaxing lunch. The restaurant is next to the Hobo Inn (a set of cabooses converted into hotel rooms). They were painting the cabooses that afternoon and I grabbed a shot on my iPhone.
After lunch, we hit the road and returned home at around 4pm. Overall, the weather was quite good, and we got a few memorable images. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to Tipsoo Lake and the Naches Peak Trail due to closure of Stevens Canyon Road at Box Canyon.