Another favorite among locals is the Lake Serene, Bridal Veil Falls trek. Located in the Central Cascades this hike boasts a combination of powerful waterfalls, steep inclines and alpine lake views.
At just over an hours drive from Seattle, I was able to get to the trailhead before 7am. And as such, the only other cars in the lot were those of a few backpackers.
Actually, as I was getting ready, a carload of trail runners showed up. Eager to make it onto the trail before them, I scrambled together my gear and hit the trail as quickly as I could.
The trail starts out on a service road, but it soon turns right and you’ll now be on an even older road used to access some now abandoned rock quarries.
After winding through a forest of Maple and Red Alderwood, things will open up a little and give you a few views beyond the treeline. But after that, it’s back into the forest you go.
As you continue with your hike, you will be presented with an option to split right and head up to the falls, or head straight and make your way to the lake. With it still being a bit cloudy, I chose to make my way up to the falls first.
In order to make your hike to the falls a little more accessible, a series of staircases have been installed. Coming off a really rocky hike from the previous week, these were a welcome change of pace.
While the split to the falls sits at roughly two miles in, the distance to the falls themselves is only a quarter of a mile further. You can’t really hear the falls from here, but as you continue up the stairs the rumbling becomes quite apparent.
And if the rumbling alone wasn’t enough to convince you of its looming presence, perhaps the misty forest will.
When you get to the falls, you have two options. One, head to the right and go take an upclose look at the point of impact.
The other, is to head to the left and get a view of the entire falls.
With it being mid summer, the falls were not too out of control. So I was able to easily hop out onto the rocks and take a few photos in the middle of the flow.
With my camera now successfully drenched from the mist of the falls, it was time to dry off and continue on with the trip to the lake.
Back along the main trail, you will pass by the lower or lesser falls.
Nothing but a trickle at this point in time, so I tried to get a little creative with the camera angles.
After you’ve passed the falls and spent a little time on the trail things start to get a bit more rocky.
Personally, I like it when the trail isn’t so well defined. Or I mean cleaned up and made more accessible.
With the falls out of the way, you head back into the forest and prepare for the main ascent.
Making your way up Mount Index, the switchbacks aren’t too difficult. While there’s quite a few large rocks to navigate, it’s totally going to be worth it. And every now and then, you get a peek of the mountains across the way.
Some springtime growth still shows on the local conifers.
After some time switchbacking up the mountain, you break free from the forest and get a glimpse of your rocky destination.
Looking back, morning clouds envelope the forest.
If there is one thing you will remember about the hike to lake serene it’s steps, steps and more steps.
Finally, the trail breaks out and you start to get a view of the pass.
Looking across the way at Mount Stickney.
Finally, Lake Serene and all her reflective glory.
Just as I arrived, the clouds started to break away and reveal the stone spires that make this place so magnificent.
Once at the lake, you have the ability to cross over the logjam via the man made bridge. Just make sure there’s no one headed toward you. It’s kind of a one way deal.
A view from the bridge looking north, down the logjam and towards the falls.
A little closer to the edge, I hopped down the jam and tried to capture the moment the short river begins its transformation into falls.
Looking back at the lake, I will never get over the sight of massive trees in crystal clear water.
Back at the lake’s edge, most of the clouds have burned off.
And with the wind at a standstill, the lake is practically a mirror.
It’s always hard to capture the awe that one feels when they visit a place like this. To try to put it into perspective, the rocky cliffs in the image above measure in at roughly 3,000 feet.
Here’s another view of the bridge. This time I am perched out on a log in the lake looking back.
With the crowds already catching up with me, I wanted to find something different. So I chose to take a little side trail along the lake’s eastern edge.
It’s really hard to see in this shot. But right were the trees end is where you will find picnic rock. There are already a few people there (look for the pink and green dots), and this is where a majority of the people will spend their time before turning around. But not us.
I was on a mission to capture some of the lake that most people will never see.
Constantly scrambling up the cliffs edge, I looked for breaks in the treelines.
Some of the reflective beauty of Lake Serene.
It’s really hard to not continuously take photos of the adjacent cliff.
Just one more, this time in portrait.
Like most of the deep alpine lakes, Lake Serene’s water is a dark aquamarine tone.
Skirting the cliffs edge.
This should give you a better idea of what I am hiking through or along. Note the edge of cliff in foreground.
One of many old dead trees.
Right along the cliffs edge, this grouping of trees looked like they could provide the structure I need for a decent shot of the lake.
Ahhh, a great view and a great place to have lunch. Nothing beats sitting on a cliffs edge with the cool breeze from an alpine lake to cool you off from a rigorous little scramble climb.
With the coastal/cliff exploration complete, it was time to head back to the lake and continue home.
And then I find this. This is my lens pen. I thought I had lost it and boy was I sad. But, as luck would have it, I found it hanging from this plant. Turns out, as I was burrowing through the bushes, this limb caught onto my pen and pulled it right out of my pocket. Reunited, I quickly put it back to use and cleaned my lens.
Not wanting to give up (go home), I headed down to picnic rock for a few final shots. If you look closely on the left side, you can follow the trail of crumbling rocks up to a cliff face along the treeline. That’s where I had made it to before turning back around.
With all the morning clouds blown away and the sun at high noon, it was time to pack up and make the trek back to the car.
As I made my way down I passed countless hikers. However, one group really stuck in my mind. It was a young hispanic family whose children couldn’t have been more than six or years old. They had already made it up to the top and were on their way back down. Even though they were going at a slow pace, they were all in good spirits and really enjoying the hike. It’s moments like this that really make it for me, seeing families outdoors, with everyone enjoying the experience.
If you would like to plan your own trip to Lake Serene, make sure you check the trail reports first. WTA has a great writeup and other hikers report all the time. Go check it out already!