One of the Fall joys in the Northwest is the opportunity to see the beautiful sub-alpine larch trees turn brilliant gold. If you are lucky, you can catch them on a crisp clear day where the gold blazes against the blue sky.
The weather cooperated this year and yesterday we drove up to Washington Pass to hike to Blue Lake. The big leaf maples were turning along the road as we drove along the Sauk River and as we climbed higher, the vine maples had turned bright yellow and red. But it was cold! There were icicles hanging down the rocky cliffs along the highway.
The trail head to Blue Lake is just before Washington Pass along the North Cascades Highway. It took us about 3 hours to drive from Seattle and we arrived shortly before noon. The parking lot was almost full and several other groups were getting read to head out. Busy day on the trail. Not surprising since it is one of the easiest trails where you can see sub-alpine larches. And it had just been mentioned in the New York Times travel article on "Finding Autumn Gold in Unexpected Places".
The trail starts along boardwalk and parallels Highway 20 for about 1/2 mile before it turns and starts to climb. The climb is gradual and after about 1 mile, the trees start to thin and you can start to see Cutthroat Peak. The larches appear about 1 1/2 miles and after a short 2 miles, you arrive at the lake.
The low sun turned the larches bright gold. They were beautiful contrasted against the dark granite and blue of the sky. Of course, since it was Saturday, every lake vista was taken up with a photographer trying to get the perfect picture. We spent about a half hour climbing along the shore with everyone else before heading back. We still passed many groups heading for the lake.
The drive back was blinding - mostly with the late afternoon sun as we were driving due west. We headed to La Conner for pizza dinner. The beer never tasted better.
Start of the Trail