Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hidden Lake Lookout (early season, snow)

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: 2.5 - 3 hours
Hiking distance (both ways): 9 miles (14.5km)
Elevation gain: 2,900ft (885m) to the pass + 300ft (100m) to the lookout
Green Trails Map: 48 and 80
Permit required for overnight camping but currently no pass is required to park at the trailhead

I was really looking forward to doing this hike for a long while now and I was too impatient to wait till mid-July, by which time all show should melt. I grabbed my ice axe, yaktrax and set out expecting some snow. I found lots.

The trail starts as a steep switchback through a forest. After about half an hour the trail left the trees and entered a snow-filled gully. From that moment on, the rest of the trip was on wet slippery snow. The trail apparently eventually crosses the gully and zig-zags along the opposite slope but I didn't notice that until I was ready to leave the gully and start the traverse.

Hidden Lake Lookout[The peak with the Hidden Lake Lookout as seen from the trail]

The traverse was somewhat frustrating in that I couldn't see how far I still had to go -- only at almost the very last minute, upon going over a rib, did my destination became visible: a sharp tall rock with a building on top (above).

Hidden Lake[Hidden Lake as seen from the pass by the Lookout]

Quite soon after spotting the Lookout, I got to the pass at its foot, from where I got a very nice view of the still frozen Hidden Lake (above).

Hidden Lake Lookout[The peak with the Hidden Lake Lookout as seen from the pass; here the East ridge (left) is covered in snow]

The Lookout was right above me (see the picture above). Large cornices had formed along the East ridge and given how soft the snow was, I didn't feel like scrambling to the top.

It took me 3 hours to get to the pass but only 1 hour and 10 minutes on the way down -- this time slippery snow was of some use. Glissading in the gully was fun but nothing compared to Mt. Adams.

Cascadian Farm
Driving Directions:
Take Rt. 20 to Marblemount (there is a ranger station there if you need to get a camping permit). From there take the Cascade River road -- I didn't see any conspicuous signs for it but it's hard to miss: if you are coming from the West, Rt. 20 will take a sharp left turn at some point in Marlbemount; instead of taking this turn, continue on the road straght that goes over a metal bridge. Continue along that road for nearly 10 miles until you see a steep turnout on the left (the first major dirt road on the left) and a sign pointing to the Hidden Lake Peaks trail. you need to take this steep narrow windy road for nearly 5 miles to the parking lot.

If you are returning West on Rt. 2, then after the hike stop at the Cascadian Farm stand (see the picture) half way between Marblemount and Rockport -- they have fruit, ice cream, espresso and lots of other tasty goodies. They also have benches and tables outside making it a perfect spot for post-hike relaxation!

This is one of Spring & Manning's "100 Classic Hikes in Washington":

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lake Serene

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: ~1.5 hours (depending on traffic)
Hiking distance (both ways): around 7.2 miles (11.5km)
Elevation gain: 2,000ft (610m)
Green Trails Map: 142
You need the NW Forest Pass to park at the trailhead

Lake Serene[Lake Serene]

This is a very nice early season hike: it is low enough to be totally snow-free while many of the upper hikes are still plagued with melting slush. Also, while the hike turns into a busy highway later in the season, at this time of the year the traffic is still manageable and you can get a spot at the Lunch Rock for great views of Lake Serene and Mt. Index ominously towering over the lake.

I'd rate the hike as easy to moderate; the first mile and a half follows an old road and it climbs up at a steady but rather gnetle angle. Then you come to the cross roads: you can go to the waterfalls (just half a mile) or continue towards Lake Serene (2 miles). The hike to the lake starts getting slightly more exciting after the split: first you cross Bridal Veils right under the waterfall (first over the bridge and then by boulder hopping). Very pleasant. Then the trail turns steep for a while as you follow a series of switchbacks. Higher up you cross a few meadows with nice views of the valley below and eventually you reach the lake! Make sure to follow the trail all the way to the Lunch Rock (you will know it when you've reached it) even though the initial views are quite nice. The lake is still partially frozen and there is plenty of snow on the slopes around. When we were there, the lake was perfectly still and the surrounding mountains reflected nearly perfectly in the water.

Bridal Veils Falls[Bridal Veils Falls]

You needn't be worried if you can make this hike: the two times I went there, I saw both young children and retired ladies making it to the top in pretty good spirit. It took us 2hrs on the way up and 1.5hrs on the way down. There is some mud on the trail so sturdy shoes (hiking boots, if possible) are a good idea.

Driving directions
This hike is accessible from Rt 2. Coming from Seattle, turn right immediately after the 35 mile post. Very quickly you will come to a large parking lot. The entire trip is along the Lake Serene Trail (#1068); see also driving directions and other information from the forest service.

P.S. A couple of years ago I wrote up directions to the trailhead and some other practical info at:

The following are very good books that cover the Lake Serene trail and other good hikes in the area: