Best Alpine Lake Hikes

Three lovely hikes that offer stunning vistas and refreshing rewards at the end of the trail.
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The 7-mile hike to Lake Serene repays you with a roaring waterfall, boardwalks and this pristine vista

Lake Serene
Mount Index

Map of Lake Serene
Difficulty:
 Moderate; 7.2 miles round-trip, 2,000-foot elevation gain Location: About 90 minutes northeast of Seattle on Mount Index via Highway 2 past Gold Bar. Nearest town: Gold Bar, 8 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required; dogs must be on a leash; Map and more info at wta.org.

If you love waterfalls and alpine lakes, the hike up to Lake Serene might be your idea of heaven. The first half of the hike is innocuous enough, with a low grade up an old logging road that winnows down into a trail. Taking the short spur trail to Bridal Veil Falls may have seemed like an option when you were lacing up your boots, but its thunderous roar—audible from a half-mile away where its spur trail breaks off from the main route—makes visiting imperative. The boardwalk at the base of the falls is an ideal spot to cool off in nature’s finest shower. After shaking dry, lake lovers should soldier on and conquer the majority of the hike’s 2,000-foot elevation gain over the next mile and a half, switchback after switchback. Just when you think you couldn’t drink in any more natural beauty, you are standing on a boulder at the edge of Lake Serene, the quintessential alpine lake of Washington’s Cascades. Luckily, the hike up to Lake Serene is for day-trippers only; otherwise, you might never leave.

 

 

 

Rainy Lake
North Cascades

Map of Rainy Lake
Difficulty:
 Easy (paved); 2 miles round-trip; no elevation gain
Location: About three hours northeast of Seattle on the North Cascades Highway, Washington Pass Overlook. Nearest town: Mazama, 22.5 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required; dogs prohibited; Map and more info at wta.org. 

Not every alpine lake requires a rigorous hike to be reached. Grandma and the kids can come along on the one-mile, handicapped-accessible trail to the sublime shores of Rainy Lake in North Cascades National Park. Walk through subalpine forest and wet meadows with the sounds of trickling water and chirping birds providing a tranquil soundtrack. You’ll arrive at a lakeside observation deck, which features an interpretive sign explaining how glaciers form lakes, and a couple of benches from which to watch geologic time unfold. Everyone will want to dip toes into the water, but probably not more; this is a glacial lake, after all. But if it’s a warm summer day, you might just take the plunge anyway.

 

Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap
South Cascades

Map of Sheep Lake
Difficulty:
 Moderate–difficult; 7 miles round-trip, 1,100-foot elevation gain Location: About 90 minutes southeast of Seattle via State Route 410 in the South Cascades’ Chinook Pass area. Nearest town:Packwood, 29 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required; Map and more info at wta.org

For a high mountain lake that you—and your kids—can jump into, along with huckleberries aplenty (in late August) and views that will take your breath away, pick up this segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. You’ll parallel the highway for the first mile—but don’t despair; you’ll be walking through gorgeous valleys soon enough, on your way to Sheep Lake, just two and a half miles in. Consider a cooling dip and a snack here; the final mile of your journey—to the ridge of Sourdough Gap and the towering vistas below—is steep indeed. Be careful, especially with children, at the top: A sharp 500-foot cliff falls away on the other side, opening up to spectacular views of Mount Rainier’s Emmons Glacier and the Crystal Lakes basin.

 

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

An intimate affair for wine lovers who get their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude
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A flight of wine awaiting tasting at one of the educational panels

If you love good wine—really good wine—you’ll want to put Northwest Wine Encounter on your radar.

Haven’t heard of it before? That’s not surprising. The inaugural event, which I attended last spring, was an intimate affair with space for just a few dozen wine lovers who got their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude on winemaking, learning about these during educational panels led by some of the region’s finest winemakers. And, of course, it helped to taste through flights of really fine wine as the winemakers offered insights and perspective.

The return engagement, on the weekend of April 28-30 (from $485/person including lodging, events and gala dinner), will follow a similar format and will once again be held at Semiahmoo Resort, a lovely spot overlooking Semiahmoo Bay, with the U.S./Canadian border and Peace Arch in view across the water. This year, there will be room for around 100 wine lovers (sign up for Northwest Wine Encounter here).


Winemakers and guests enjoying Friday night’s bonfire at Semiahmoo 

This quintessential Northwest location was chosen to complement the local wines that are the focus of the weekend. At Semiahmoo, Mount Baker frames the view in one direction, the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound in another. At one time in its history, Semiahmoo was also the site of a salmon cannery. Hard to get more Northwest than that.

The 2017 winemaker lineup includes a few superstars from Oregon and Washington: Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, Walla Walla’s oldest winery; David Merfeld of Northstar Winery, Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars; Tony Rynders of Panther Creek and wine grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyards. New this year is the addition of a British Columbia winemaker, Walter Gehriner of Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery.

 

At last year’s events, the panel discussions were interesting, but the Friday night kick-off event was almost worth the price of admission alone. It had the air of an informal party where everyone was enjoying each other’s company. All the winemakers were in attendance, pouring and chatting about what they love most: making wine. The party eventually spilled out onto the beach where a bonfire warmed the crowd. Marshmallows optional, wine required.