Fall Foliage Walks

North Cascades National Park, Washington
  |  Gorp.com

At first glance, you might not look to the Pacific Northwest for much in the way of fall color. Big trees, sure: The famous old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest are filled with 200- to 300-foot-tall Douglas firs, hemlocks, and western red cedars, all of them evergreens. But there's plenty of fall color if you know where to look: down, not up.

The forest floor teems with life. Nurse logs host forests of ferns (all turning colors) and baby seedlings, which will in a thousand years themselves reach to the sky. Vine maples provide a brilliant golden ground cover, and a multitude of mushrooms spans the color spectrum from bright yellow and orange to deep purple.

Climb uphill, and you'll see color of an edible sort: huckleberries, their russet foliage and purple berries advertising that 'tis the season to be eating.

Recommended Ramble
The East Bank Trail follows the east side of Ross Lake, a reservoir that holds back the Skagit River. The trail starts at milepost 138 on State Route 20, which runs through the North Cascades Mountains. From there, the trail winds through quiet forests, and then rambles along the reservoir, offering views across the water to peaks that can be dusted with snow as early as early September. You won't be able to hike the entire trail in a day hike—it's 31 miles one way—so pay attention to when you need to turn around.

Special Extras
September is huckleberry season—be sure to schedule some picking time. Bring a plastic container (to protect the berries), and plan on huckleberry pancakes for breakfast. Remember: Huckleberries grow in the high country. To find them, drive east on Route 20 to Rainy Pass. Park on the north side of the pass, and head north and uphill on the Pacific Crest Trail. This climb offers not only berries, but a chance to work up a sweat—and earn great views.

For More Information
North Cascades Information Office, (360) 856-5700. The Ross Lake Resort (which offers boating) is at the foot of the lake. Other accommodations are found in Diablo and Mazama. Best time to be here: September.


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