Lake Serene - Bridal Veil Falls
Jul 07, 2012
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Lake Serene - Bridal Veil Falls
- Region: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
- Agency: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest - Skykomish Ranger District
- Trails: Lake Serene (#1068)
- Avg Rating: 4.44
- Hiking Companions
- Hiked with kids
(I say "new" because the last time I hiked to this lake, in 1991, the "trail" – and I'm being generous with that description - consisted of a nearly straight up series of parallel and confusing boot-beaten mud chutes, complete with the usual side serving of adventures such routes offer, like twisted ankles, falling down small cliffs, dodging up and around larger cliffs, and the ever popular "devils club" belay that you'll only do once...)
It was nice to see that all the infernal fee money we pay through the confusing and clunky system of various governmental parking passes has more use than just paying Forest Service employees to ticket the non-compliant (though we noticed as we were leaving that they had made a visit to the TH this day, and duly cited the confused souls who bought the Discovery Pass instead of the NW Forest Pass...ah the life of micro-regulated…). But I digress - the trail is one of the most sturdily constructed and well-graded routes up a steep slope that I've ever encountered outside the NPS. Kudos to the crew who built it.
That said - this trail desperately needs to be well built given the crowds it sustains. For the first mile or so it’s not much of a bother as the trail appears to have been laid on an old recovering road and it’s wide enough for everyone to pass at their preferred speed with nothing more than a friendly hello. After that, however, the trail narrows to a more typical gauge and that’s where the fun begins. Let me start by admitting that my crew is in the bottom 95th percentile in terms of hiking speed, between two 40-somethings with worn out knees and two tweens who we are dutifully training to carry their own packs. We know we are a series of semi-mobile speed bumps and we truly don’t mind stepping aside for the speedsters when a reasonable opportunity presents itself – always a nice chance to catch one’s breath and take a look around at the scenery. Nevertheless on such a crowded trail I began to get a bit unnerved by the large number of “trail-gaters” – usually some young and overly fit 20-something couple, decked out in stylish workout gear, she in fully color-coordinated Athleta or LuLu Lemon while her male counterpart sports the ubiquitous UnderArmor, and nary a water bottle to be seen betwixt them, much less a pack with the 10 essentials (don’t worry folks, we’ve got you covered!). Generally always very polite, but also always in such a hurry to keep that heart rate up. I offer one plea, and a reminder, to these folks: the plea is to be as patient as you can with the wobbling and toddling older, chronically sleep-deprived parents shepherding the next generation of trail fee payers up into the wilderness, and the reminder is that one day you will probably be one of us…
All that said, we managed to successfully navigate our way up to the lake in 2 hours and 40 minutes with no major problems. The trail is an engineering marvel of steps, drainages, boardwalks, and a beautiful bridge over whatever that creek is called that makes up Bridal Veil Falls. There were no bugs to worry us, no snow anywhere along the trail, no blowdowns, no major mud bogs – just lots of switchbacks (we counted 21 going up and 19 coming down, and doubting that two of them disappeared in between we are more certain in the second number as the first was counted when the brain was low on oxygen), creeks (36 up, 32 down, same likely issue as with the switchbacks), dogs, and people.
At the lake there is a lot of room to spread out, and it is needed. We wandered up and around the western shore until we came to what is clearly The Spot – a big slab of granite sloping down into the lake with an amphitheatre-like quality to it. We soaked up some sun, gobbled down a lunch of beef jerky, peanuts, cheese, and York peppermint patties, tossing the few meager rocks we could find into the clear blue-green lake. As COSTCO had the audacity to stop carrying the 24 bottle variety pack of Talking Rain (since remedied, I am happy to report), I had to content myself with a Perrier, which tasted just fine but, I had to admit, seemed just a bit bourgeois for such a thoroughly middle-class imbiber as myself. A couple of hearty souls tested the lake water with their toes but nothing more. The spires of Mt. Index look positively make-believe from this shore, towering up a good 3000 feet in dizzying, neck-craning splendor, with multiple long, wispy waterfalls dropping off the sheer faces and tumbling down steep meadows – if you saw such a scene in a painting you’d no doubt think it was a hokey over-dramatization of some sort, equal rations of grandiosity and LSD on the part of the artist. But it’s real, all right, and pretty dang humbling as such places go.
Two and half hours back to the car, whose thermometer registered a near-perfect 80 degrees as we kicked off the boots, fired up the AC (we are such quintessential Northwesterners), and tooled out of the parking lot. We did not stop passing parked cars for the TH until we were a quarter mile down Highway 2, headed for home. A bit of trivia for like-minded would-be parents of future hikers: McDonald’s sells little snack-sized McFlurries, which turn out to be a convenient and economical way to trigger your kids’ hiking reinforcement mechanism, a nice real-world application of freshman Psychology 101. Always a treat to find a use for science - armed as we are with such knowledge, our kids are powerless to refuse the call of the wild!