Seattle Area Hikes

Lake Serene Trail
By Scott Leonard
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Key Info
Level : Moderate
Total Distance : 7.2 miles
Hiking Time : 4.5 hours
Elevation Gain : 1,950 feet
Summary : A challenging haul to one of Washington’s greatest low-elevation lakes.

The Hike
Lake Serene Trail packs it all in. Starting just a stone’s throw from Highway 2, the challenging route offers regular points of interest over its 3.6-mile course. First up are a pair of crossings at the bottom of scenic Bridal Veil Falls. As the trail climbs, it breaks out in the open and offers far-flung views of the Skykomish Valley. Finally, the trail reaches Lake Serene. Although it lies at just 2,500 feet of elevation, the lake takes on an alpine feel nestled beneath the towering cliffs of Mount Index. Certainly, Lake Serene is one of the valley’s most beautiful lakes.

Lake Serene Trail is all business and rarely stops climbing. The first half of the trail is a steady incline through hardwood forests of red alder and big leaf maple. Several streams ramble across the trail but aren’t big enough to soak the boots. The Forest Service has signed the trail as it crosses a decommissioned road (1.5 miles). Just beyond the road, the trail reaches Bridal Veil Falls Trail junction (1.6 miles)—stay left on Lake Serene Trail as it drops to a bridge crossing the creek, directly beneath a set of the large falls. In the spring, snowmelt feeds the creek until the falls are a roaring cascade.

Beyond Bridal Veil Creek, the trail makes an unbroken, vigorous climb in its latter half. Ducking into old-growth forest, this portion of the trail features many wooden structures. Numerous crib steps only add to the pain of the countless switchbacks. Frequently, the forest breaks and reveals great views of the valley below. This section of the trail will challenge some hikers and is a little too much for children, but Lake Serene is within reach. Regular breaks will recharge worn-out hikers.

In return for the hard work, the trail reaches the large bowl holding Lake Serene (3.6 miles). Mount Index towers more than 3,000 feet above the lake, providing a dramatic setting. On hot summer days, Lake Serene is the perfect swimming hole. Across the bridge spanning the lake’s outlet, a pair of signed side trails visit first, a viewpoint of the valley and second, Lunch Rock. Aptly named, Lunch Rock is an enormous slab of glacially smoothed bedrock. Few afternoons are better-spent than basking in the sun here.

Bridal Veil Falls Trail is a steep 0.5-mile climb to an excellent viewpoint at the middle falls, which are the largest. For those with the energy, it’s a good side trip on the way down. The junction is 1.6 miles up Lake Serene Trail, before it crosses Bridal Veil Creek—turn right to reach the viewpoint.

From Seattle, drive north on I-5 to Everett and turn east on Highway 2 to Mount Index Road, just beyond milepost 35. Turn right and drive 0.2 mile to a very short access road, on the right, and the signed trailhead.

Information and Contact
This trail is usually accessible May–October and is open to hikers and leashed dogs. There is no wheelchair access. A federal Northwest Forest Pass is required to park here. For a map of Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest, contact the Outdoor Recreation Information Center at the downtown Seattle REI. For topographic maps, ask Green Trails for No. 142, Index, or ask the USGS for Index. For more information, contact Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger Station, 74920 Northeast Stevens Pass Highway, Skykomish, WA 98288, 360/677-2414.

Published: 2 May 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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