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Mt Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest: Day Hike to Lake Serene

day hike to lake serene

the rundown

Distance: 8.2 miles round-trip

Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet

Trailhead: Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead

We wanted to get one last hike in on our last day in Washington before heading to the airport for our redeye flights. Lake Serene, located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest seemed like the perfect hike. It was just over an hour from the airport and at 8.2 miles round-trip would make for a perfect day hike. 

We started our early from the hotel and arrived to the trailhead at around 11 to find the parking lot nearly full! We parked, I made a few sandwiches for lunch, and we headed towards the trailhead. 

planning your hike to lake serene

Are permits required? Yes. To park at the trailhead you will need a Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass.

How to get to the trailhead: The hike to Lake Serene begins at the Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead in Gold Bar, WA, approximately an hour east of Seattle in the Mount Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest. 

When to go: This hike can be done year-round.

Gear to Pack:

personal trip report

date visited: 9/5/16

The first portion of the trail is an old forest road and it is wide and easy hiking. The road ends and we began a moderate climb through the dense forest. At 1.7 miles we reached the fork in the trail, a right would have taken us to Bridal Veil Falls and a left was going to lead us to Lake Serene, we headed left and began descending until we crossed a creek and then our real climb began. 23 sweeping and steep switchbacks and stairs were going to take us to the base of Lake Serene, still 1.5 miles away and 1,500' above us. 

This hike was another uphill slog for us. We slowly counted down the switchbacks each time we rounded a corner and by the time we reached 10, not even half way, both Alex and I were sweating profusely and wondering why we even bothered showering that morning. 

Finally, after a grueling mile we rounded our last switchback, which would take us the last half mile to the lake. By this time we were surrounded by clouds, yet again. When we arrived to the lake it was so covered in clouds we couldn't see the other side, but it was still beautiful and we could immediately see how the lake earned its name.

It was also incredibly crowded, the lakeshore was dotted with groups of hikers enjoying their lunch. So many hikers enjoy a lunch here that a large rock on the shore was named Lunch Rock! 

So we sat and ate, and once again watched clouds clear before our very eyes and reveal a stunning alpine landscape before us. As we were eating a couple came with their two dogs who jumped into the lake without hesitation and swam around as their owners threw them a tennis balls. I had planned on floating around and brought my bathing suit but by the time we sat down to eat and the chill from walking through the clouds permeated me and even though the hike was strenuous I was feeling chilled and I opted to just watch the dogs enjoy their swim instead.

After we finished eating and took a few last pictures we packed up and began the long descent back to our car and then drove to Sea-Tac. A word of advice if you are planning on doing this hike, go earlier, the lot fills up, and rush hour traffic through Gold Bar is a nightmare. Our "just over an hour" drive to the airport took us 2 hours. Thankfully we had extra time budgeted but had we lingered just a little longer at the lake we may have missed our flights!