I’m still hoping to squeeze a little more summer out of this year, but between the foliage I’m starting to see in the mountains and the blustery weather we had this weekend, it’s clear fall is around the corner. So before the shortest of hiking seasons has come and gone, I wanted to share my favorite fall color hikes from last year. When drive time is factored in (which is close to 3 hours from Seattle each way for many of these), it’s a long day, but it’s worth it.
Some other options can be found in a similar post I wrote last September.
Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm (Marblemount) – This fall might not be the year to hike this because the road to the trailhead will be closed for most of September and October. But in a normal year, this hike provides scenery overload in the fall (or any time of year really). You get good fall color and jaw dropping mountain scenery on the hike to Cascade Pass, and both only get better if you continue on up to Sahale Arm. Also, keep your ears open for the whistling marmots and your eyes open for the bear who likes to hang out on the slope of the arm. Fortunately both times I’ve seen him he was far enough away to tax the zoom lens on my point & shoot.
Cutthroat Pass (North Cascades Highway) – I did this hike last year the day after the first snow, which made it freezing but beautiful. I primary did this hike for the larches, and those were pretty incredible, but this also provides good mountain views. I recommend continuing on past Cutthroat Pass for about a mile to Granite Pass – colors and views reward those who do.
Lake Ingalls (Blewett Pass) – People really love this hike in the summer, but I don’t understand the allure. The trail is dry and mostly exposed to the sun, with slippery rock in places. On the way up to the pass, the views aren’t that great, and the lake doesn’t strike me as anything special by Washington alpine lake standards. So why is this even on my list? Because in the fall there are LARCHES and lots of them. And lots of goats (who are there in the summer too). Oh, and marmots busily stocking their dens for the winter. I’ve done this hike just once, and it quickly shot to the top of my fall hiking list. It’s the only hike on this list that I for sure want to do again this fall.
Park Butte (Concrete) – I don’t recall the fall colors being anything spectacular, but what I do recall is the copious amounts of huckleberries along the trail, particularly near the beginning of the Railroad Grade climbers’ route toward Mt. Baker. In a short time I picked enough berries to make a cobbler. Bring your Tupperware!
Yellow Aster Butte (Mt. Baker) – This was the last fall color hike I did last year. Lots of colorful foliage to look at (and still some berries in late October!) and then lots of tarns once you get to the top. I made it partway up the Butte before the wind threatened to blow me off, so I hung out by a tarn for awhile and enjoyed the views.
On the list for this year is Horseshoe Lake, an off-the-beaten-path lake outside of Leavenworth.