Best Hikes to See Color Change

Where to enjoy nature in Technicolor.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Take an easy hike to Technicolor foliage in Heather Meadows near Mount Baker

Heather Meadows
Near Mount Baker

Heather Meadows
Difficulty:
Easy; .5 mile, mostly level and paved 
Location: About two and a half hours from Seattle in the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest, 56 miles east on State Route 542. Nearest town: Glacier, 23 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required; dogs must be on a leash; fs.usda.gov

Long after the wildflowers fade, vivid color reamins on western Washington trails, especially at Heather Meadows, come September or October. Indeed, the handicapped-accessible half-mile path around Picture Lake near the Mount Baker Ski Area affords views not only of towering Mount Shuksan reflected in the water, but also of Technicolor foliage on the mountain heather, alpine blueberries and other plants crowding the trail’s edge. A small viewing platform with benches and interpretive signs serves as a destination on this lollipop trail. Look for blueberries ripening trailside this month. (But keep your eyes peeled for black bears after the same bounty.) Those looking for more can hit the Chain Lakes Trail or any number of world-class backpacking and climbing routes emanating from Artist Ridge, just a little farther up the road.

 

 

 

Washington Park Arboretum
Seattle

Washington Arboretum
Difficulty:
Easy; length varies, no elevation gain 
Location: On the shores of Lake Washington, just east of Madison Valley 

 depts.washington.edu/uwbg

In just a few months, you can take in stunning fall colors—and your in-city cure for nature deficit disorder—on a simple outing to Seattle’s living lung: the Washington Park Arboretum. With 230 acres of wetlands, woodlands and walking trails—and a world-renowned collection of trees—you’ll find fall-color heaven, with fiery Japanese maple, golden-yellow larches and ash, and oak trees replete with acorns (and frantically happy squirrels), along with more than 10,000 other plants and trees from around the world. Admission to all but the Japanese Garden is free; download a trail map at depts.washington.edu/uwbg, or join one of the free guided tours that leave from the Graham Visitors Center every Sunday at 1 p.m., January–November.

 

Lake Ingalls
Alpine Lakes Wilderness 

Lake Ingalls
Difficulty:
Moderate; 9 miles round-trip, 2,500-foot elevation gain 
Location: About a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, via Interstate 90 and Teanaway Road. Nearest town: Cle Elum, 31.5 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required; dogs prohibited; wta.org 

While the hike up to Lake Ingalls, just inside the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, is wondrous any time of year, veteran leaf peepers save it for October, when the subalpine larches at the treeline and around the water’s edge glow with golden needles, ideally against a backdrop of freshly fallen snow. The lake itself can exaggerate the day’s mood—sparkling and beckoning under blue skies or foreboding and spooky under dark clouds. Serrated Mount Stuart seems to peek out of nowhere, like a next-door neighbor peering over a fence to keep the lake company. This is the high country indeed; Lake Ingalls itself is above 6,000 feet in elevation, as your thighs will no doubt be reporting after making the climb.

A Lovely Fall Road Trip to Moscow, Idaho

A Lovely Fall Road Trip to Moscow, Idaho

Plan a weekend getaway to this small town full of craft beer and changing leaves
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Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the multi-hued leaf display at the University of Idaho Arboretum

Where: Moscow, Idaho, a small town just east of Pullman and a five-hour drive east of Seattle.

Why: It’s a college town, the leaves are changing and there are regional craft beers. Need we say more? Yes? Well then, to enjoy the serenity of The Palouse and a Seattle-like culture, complete with bicycle enthusiasts, Chaco wearers and trendy spots for quick bites—such as Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana (602 S Main St.; 208.882.2694; maialinapizzeria.com) and Sisters Cookie Company (610 N Almon St.; 208.892.2253; sisterscookiecompany.com), which opened last summer.

Stop and see: Nearby Palouse Falls State Park (Palouse Falls Road, LaCrosse, Washington; wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/palouse-falls). The waterfall here is the lone remnant of glacial floods from the last ice age. (Tip: A sunset picture allows for the most magical of scenes for your Instagram feed.) Explore: The Moscow Farmers Market (Saturdays through October 29, 8 a.m.–1 p.m.), located downtown, features music and, on October 1, the University of Idaho Homecoming Parade.

Walk the town and peruse the local shops, then head to the University of Idaho Arboretum, a five-minute drive from downtown Moscow, to witness the autumn foliage of the groves’ rare trees. Indulge: Tapped (210 S Main St.; 208.596.4422; moscowtapped.com), a local gastropub featuring 25 regional craft beers and 10 wines. At your own risk: Visit Haunted Palouse in the town of Palouse (9 miles from Moscow), which features two haunted houses and haunted hay rides (through October, dates and times vary; 509.330.0353; visitpalouse.com/haunted-palouse).