One of the reasons I was so keen on the move to Washington State was living in close proximity to the mountains and especially the snow. So it's a little sad that over the course of this past winter my first visit to the snow came just a little over a week ago in May. Our mountains were all quite snowy still, so I spent a while looking at trip reports on Washington Trails Association for hikes that would at least be considered passable without any special equipment. Last time this year we attempted a hike up Kachess Ridge and ended up turning around due to loosing the trail in all the snow. It sounded like the Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls hike would be an okay choice, although it was noted that there was some snow on the trail - we figured we'd just enjoy as much of the hike as we could.
Overall, I put this hike in my totally worth it basket - in spite of the amount of stairs (those are my hiking kryptonite). If you include the out and back to the falls, the hike clocks in at around 9 miles round trip with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. However since there are two gorgeous water features to see along the way, the climb is totally worth it.
Out of the parking lot, just past the small town of Gold Bar, the beginning of the hike is a very gentle climb through mossy maple and alder forests. It's a touch rocky and there are a a few forks in the path with good signs - so you will want to watch where you're walking.
After taking the fork to head towards Bridal Veil Falls, the up and up really starts to begin. There are also a number of small stream crossings along the way to keep the climb interesting.
That being said the scenery just keeps getting better - so make sure to look up from watching your footing every once in awhile.
Eventually, the roar of the falls gets louder and a lovely boardwalk appears to take you closer.
The cascade of water over the dark rock makes Bridal Veil Falls very beautiful and it's possible to get quite close and rather wet if that's what you fancy during your hike.
After climbing back down all those stairs, you'll have to walk around a lower part of the falls and take a long trek east amongst moss covered trees with more stairs to quickly gain elevation up to the lake.
Eventually you'll take a sweep back west and this is where we encountered a few feet of snow. Thank goodness for my trekking poles - they made my crossing of the snowy quarter mile to the lake way easier. There were certainly a few points of uncertainty and risk like climbing between snow banks and avoiding falling through the soft snow. On a side note, Parsley (our Vizsla pup) didn't seem to understand why the humans of our hiking group were taking so long to get through the snow.
Once we made it to Lake Serene, all those stairs seemed absolutely worth it. The crystal clear lake in contrast to the 3,000 foot sheer cliffs of Mt. Index is just gorgeous - especially when you think about how you made it here in just a few hours and about an hour drive from Seattle.
As we sat on the log bridge crossing the stream that will become Bridal Veil Falls, we got to enjoy the sight and sound of small spring avalanches - fascinating to watch. Parsley on the other hand, was just not so into those avalanche sounds echoing around the lake.
Lake Serene Hike Tips
- Make sure you have a Northwest Forest Pass to park in the lot by the trailhead.
- If current trip reports suggest you may encounter snow on the trail, bring trekking poles with baskets and consider snowshoes.