by Rachel and Russell
“Somewhere between the start of the trail and the end, is the mystery why we choose to walk.”
A 2,000 foot elevation gain, a thundering waterfall, spectacular vistas, an alpine lake, and cliff jumping?! Each attraction would be a worthy destination on its own right, however, when all are combined on one trail, it makes for one truly amazing experience. The hike to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls offered adventure, beauty, and so much more.
Our trek begins in the dense forests of Washington’s Central Cascades. Immediately upon entering the trailhead we are greeted by large alders, and moss covered maple trees. The woods are blanketed in a vibrant green hue and we smell the clean, fresh moisture in the air. On this particular day, a summer fog has decided to take up residence and adds to the surreal, fairy-like quality of these woods. After two miles of easy hiking through this lush terrain, the trail splits and gives the option to continue to the lake or take a side trip up to Bridal Veil Falls. Since we came for the ultimate adventure experience, we chose the latter without hesitation. The path to the falls is a series of stairs, carved into the carpeted forest floor. Soon after taking the detour, a hint of the ultimate destination is revealed as we begin to pick up the sound of the thundering falls in the distance.
After a ½ mile of steep incline, we reach top of the falls and get a first row seat to the cascading water as well as a magnificent view overlooking the tree canopied valley below. We take off our hiking boots and socks and wade in a pool directly under the falls. The mist sprays our skin and provides a refreshing break from our climb up. After playing in the water, we load back up and make our way back down the stair path. We meet back up with the main trail and proceed to the lake. This is where the real climb begins. Switchbacks upon switchbacks. We complete 23 in total as we wind our way up the mountain. With our legs burning and our breathing labored, we finally approach the crest line. Summiting the climb and catching the first views of Lake Serene is breathtaking.
This body of water is perfectly named. Serene. The mirror-like quality of the teal blue water reflects the surrounding walls of Mt. Index and provides an ideal backdrop. We stop at a large stone bordering the lake named Lunch Rock, and soak in the serenity. After our brief repose, we spot a cliff on the opposite side of the lake and decide that our adventure isn’t over quite yet. We scramble through the labyrinth of boulders and make it over to the rock ledge. We climb to the flat top and look down into the crystal clear water. It appears both welcoming and frigid! As we stand with our toes on the cliff’s edge, we look back at the surrounding peaks and appreciate the climb that brought us to this moment in time.
With one deep breath and a grateful heart, we leap! The icy water hits our skin and we are instantly and completely immersed in the beauty of this place. The water is cleansing and it immediately refreshes our spirit. We swim to the rocky bank and climb back onto the cliff. We take one last look around before we begin the descent back down the mountain. Feeling accomplished, we achieved our ultimate Washington hiking adventure.
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