A few weeks ago I welcomed one of my best friends back to Washington by introducing her to one of my favorite easy to get to hikes, Lake Serene. While it is a bit of a drive to get to from the Seattle area the trail head is just off of Highway 2 and not down some long bumpy forest road like many others are.
We set out Sunday morning guided by Waze as I was not awake enough to trust my own navigation skills. Plus, i’m always a bit amused by how the British navigation voice pronounces things, our favorite of the trip was “Mt. Index” (say it fast and use your imagination). When we arrived at the trail head we found that the parking lot was already full, luckily there was still parking along the Skykomish River. We threw on our packs and started down the trail.
The trail starts off pretty flat along an old road which splits almost immediately. A sign points you in the right direction but every time I visit I find myself wondering where the other fork goes but have yet to find out. Even though the trail is a popular one, the first bit of the trail is dense with foliage that you have to work your way through before it opens up into a wooded forest.
A little more than a mile and a half in you can split off on to the half mile trail up to Bridal Veil Falls, which is beautiful. However, we had both been there before and with the parking lot as full as it was we knew it would be pretty busy, we were on a mission to get to the lake. However, here’s a picture of the falls from one of my previous visits in case you were wondering what it looks like.
After the turnoff for Bridal Veil the trail continues through the forest before crossing a bridge over a smaller waterfall, which is sadly mostly obscured by trees. The trail then drops down to another more impressive waterfall, but not as impressive as Bridal Veil itself. This is a good spot to stop and take in the view and have a snack as the trail is about to get a little harder.
As soon as you move past the falls the trial gets rocky and starts to gain elevation quickly. All that flat is a thing of the past. As you head up you can take a look back and see part of the falls through the trees. The trail turns into a series of switch backs as you continue upward, some times rocky and sometimes including steps. Luckily it seemed as if most people were headed for the falls as the trail wasn’t that crowded. Navigating around the rocks and tree roots is extra challenging when it’s crowded, especially with hikers that don’t follow proper trail etiquette.
Once you make your way a bit further up you pass through clearings where you can catch glimpses of the surrounding mountains and the river below. All that time working the switchbacks finally starts to payoff with some spectacular views on a clear day. The trail crosses through a water fall as you begin your final push up to the lake catching views that are more impressive than the last. Right before you reach the lake you will see parts of Mt. Index shooting upwards towards the sky.
As we took it all in the clouds began to shift and expose different parts of the mountain.
But as we were staring up at the mountain someone was staring at our snacks. He wasn’t as sneaky as he thought he was, i’ll give him an A for effort though.
You can begin to work your way around the lake crossing over a bridge at the top of the runoff that turns into falls. Right after the bridge you can follow a short trail to the right to look over the valley below.
The trail continues around to “Lunch Rock” which is a big flat rock perfect for taking a break and … having lunch.. before you head back down. We, however, had other lunch plans and after enjoying the lake started to make our way back down. The trip back can be just as challenging as the way up, if not more so. All those rocks you have to climb over on your way up are now tricky obstacles to navigate on your way down, the last thing you want to do is roll an ankle. It’s funny how quite hikers get as they are focused on their footwork. The final stretch of the trail before the trail head, that nice flat beginning of the trail, seems to drag on forever and seems to be longer than it was on the way up.
Once you reach your car and begin your trip home you’ll face another, and perhaps unexpected, obstacle of the hike. Traffic on Highway 2. It can be very slow going on the 2 lane highway as you make your way through Gold Bar, Startup and Sultan. When we finally hit Sultan we made a stop for lunch at Bubba’s Roadhouse. In keeping with my tradition of getting the most ridiculous burger available after a hike, I had to get the one that had pulled pork, bacon, ham and fried onions on it. I wonder if I consumed more calories than I burned?