This article appears in print in the June 2018 issue, as part of the "85 Best Outdoor Adventures" cover story. Click here to subscribe.
Getting to Lake Serene might just be the best day hike in the world, given the mix of hearty exercise, conifer-tinged fresh air, sweeping views and, of course, the big payoff at the end: a dip in one of the prettiest alpine lakes you’ll ever see. And a recent campaign by the Seattle-based environmental group Forterra has saved the trees along the trail from the axe: Weyerhaeuser owned some of the land around the trail and was planning to initiate logging before environmentalists came in with enough money to purchase the parcels in question. Forterra’s success means we can keep enjoying this ultimate getaway as a tonic to our otherwise frenetic urban lives.
As part of the deal between Forterra and Weyerhaeuser, 60 acres of forest close to the trail are being logged and the trail is closed until July. When it reopens, there will be a buffer of trees between it and the logging site, and “will still look much like it did last summer,” says Forterra’s forest conservation director, Charles Raines.
Park near the trailhead off U.S. Highway 2 and hike 1.7 miles through lush second-growth forest—look for abundant salmonberries lining the trail—to a fork where you can detour to Bridal Veil Falls. The waterfall thunders down 1,000 vertical feet over five sections and is sure to spray all who venture near. Once you’ve soaked in these heavenly mists, retrace your steps back to the main trail. The thigh burning begins here as you traverse switchback after switchback for another 1.5 miles, gaining 1,300 feet in elevation. The trail levels off and delivers you to the calm and tranquil shoreline of Lake Serene in a glacial cirque below the imposing peak of Mount Index. If you’re hot enough after the ascent, you may just want to dive right in. Otherwise, spread out your picnic lunch and revel in the Cascadian splendor surrounding you.
Trail to Lake Serene reopens in July.