Sunny Walter's
Washington Nature Weekends

Fall Color Hikes

(All photos on this site are © Sunny Walter unless otherwise noted - click on images to see enlargements)

* Great Hikes to See and Photograph Golden Larches,
Huckleberries and Other Fall Foliage

North Cascades West North Cascades East
Columbia Gorge
Central Cascades South Cascades Olympic Peninsula

North Cascades West
Mount Baker - North Side
Yellow Aster Butte (6 miles r.t.; 3200 ft gain - hike or backpack)
Late August - September for berries; late Sept. for fall color
Trip Reports:
  • 8/24/02 - blueberries good, fall color starting, still fields of wildflowers
  • 9/16/00 - blueberries are in their full splendor, fall colors are just starting to come out, reds and oranges, but there are still fields of wildflowers.
  • 9/28/02 - blueberries perfectly ripe - fall color and views insane
  • Lots of marmots
Directions: Drive SR 549 to Glacier and 13.5 miles further to highway maintenance sheds on your left. Just beyond should be a sign reading "Tomyhoi Trail 5, Twin Lakes 7." Turn left and drive about two miles to the Yellow Aster Butte Trail (Keep Kool Trail), 2,960 feet.

Mount Baker / Heather Meadows   Walks (E) and hikes (E/M - 2-6 miles r.t.).
Late September or early October for fall color
Sunrises, sunsets, fall color, waterfalls, mountain goats, marmots, scenic vistas, and hillsides bright red from the blueberry fall color.

Chain Lakes Trail is excellent for fall color.  Start at the west end of the Artist Point parking area and hike around Table Mt. (left fork) to the saddle between Table Mt. and Ptarmigan Ridge.  Take the right fork, drop down to the 4 Chain lakes, then up to Herman Saddle (great views), then down 1100 ft (boulders, heather, waterfalls) to the meadows surrounding Bagley Lakes.  Hike out the Bagley Lakes Trail and take a car shuttle back to Artist Point  (6 miles and 600' gain).  The whole way is covered with red huckleberry, yellow mountain ash and evergreens.  Look for marmots in the boulders near Hermann Saddle.  Mountain goats may also be seen.
     "For a shorter hike, stop at the pass-like alpine area before the trail drops down to the Chain Lakes. Enjoy views of Mt Baker and the multicolored slopes or continue on to Ptarmigan Ridge for even better views.  Retrace your steps to the parking area. For the 0.5 mile climb to Table Mountain, turn right at the fork nearest the trailhead, and climb up the lava cliffs to grand views of heather covered slopes.

Bagley Lakes Trail is an easier hike/walk (2-3 miles r.t., min elev gain).  Turn right into the trailhead parking before you get to the visitor center / picnic area parking.  Hike the
Bagley Lakes Trail along the left (east) side of the lake between 9 and 12 am for best photo ops (the sun strikes the west side of the lake at ~ 9:00 in late Sept and the near side ~ 10:00) although with the low angle of the sun in late Sept, almost anytime is all right.  You will see beautiful colors and grand scenics of the lakes, streams, grasses, and Table Mountain.

Mountain Loop Highway
Suiattle River / Bear Four Ice Cave areas
Late Sept thru mid-October for fall color
Deep orange vine maple trees, yellow-leafed cottonwood, fireweed, huckleberry bushes, and mountain scenics

Forest Service fall color hike suggestions:
  • Green Mtn. Trail #782 (Suiattle River)
    (3 mi. r.t., 1500 ft gain  to huckleberry fields)
  • Mt. Dickerman (Bear Four Ice Cave area)
    (5 mi. r.t , 2000 ft gain to blazing colors of huckleberry fields)

North Cascades East
Pasayten Wilderness

Horseshoe Basin (8 miles r.t., 900 ft gain to Sunny Basin - backpack)
Larches, meadows, open slopes, lakes, streams, waterfalls.

Directions:  From Tonasket take Okanogan County Road 9437 (Hwy 7) north about 5.5 miles to County Road 9425. Turn east on County Road 9425 and travel about 12 miles to Loomis. From Loomis continue on County Road 9425 for about 2 miles to County Road 4066. Turn east County Road 4066, which becomes Forest Service Road 39 (Toats Coulee Road). Travel 14 miles and turn right on FS Road 500 (Irongate Road), following it 5.2 miles to the trailhead.

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North Cascades Highway
Blue Lake (4.4 miles r.t.; 1100 ft gain to a turquoise lake - hike or backpack)
Excellent for larches in early October.
10/9/99 trip report: Subdued glow of the larch against the snow dusted mountains was a beautiful sight

Directions:  North Cascades Hwy, Milepost 161

Easy Pass
(7 miles r.t., 2800 ft gain )
Mid-October for golden larches.
Alpine larches with mountain peaks behind them.  Bright reds, yellows, oranges (blueberries).

6.2 miles west of Rainy Pass.

Maple Pass / Lake Ann  (1.5 miles; 545 ft gain to Lake Ann spur - Maple Pass is 2.5 miles; 1200 ft gain further - Loop trip is about 8 miles and 2000 ft gain - hike or backpack)
Fall color on slopes around Lake Ann ar best at dawn.  
Scenic mountain peaks on either side of Maple Pass.
  • Trip Reports:
    • 10/13/02: Golden Larches right at peak color. Purple and crimson shrubs everywhere.
    • 10/12/02: Huckleberries were giving off the deepest red color I have ever seen.
    • 10/7/00: You would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful collection of golden larches in such a spectacular setting.  They are currently at their peak fall color.
Directions:  Drive the North Cascades Hwy (SR 20) to Rainy Pass. Park in the roomy parking and picnic area on the southwest side of the road. The trails beginning here are clearly signed, near the entrance to the parking loop.

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Central Cascades
Stevens Pass
Merritt Lake  (6 miles r.t., 2000 ft gain - hike)
Berries in September; fall color peaks in mid-October

Seattle P-I, Oct 17, 1996:
 "In October, the Solomon's Seal turns yellow and produces bright red berries, and the swirling leaves of the False Hellebore looks like tattered silk. Everywhere you look you will see color, in addition to monster-size Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine. Later in the season, the vibrant landscape turns muted and tawny."

Directions:   Drive 11 miles east from Steven Pass on Hwy. 2.  Near MP 76, turn left onto the Merritt Lake Road (FR 657). Drive ~ 1.5 miles to road end and the trailhead, elevation 3,000 feet.

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Tonga Ridge  (6.8 miles r.t., 400 ft gain - hike)
Mid- to late September for fall color; earlier for blueberries.
Spectacular views, meadows full of blueberries.
Trip Reports:
  • 9/29/01: Fall colors were really starting to come out and there were millions of blueberries still on the bushes.
  • 9/1/97: Once above the forest, flowers included fireweed, indian paintbrush, and thistles, as well as a few lupines, and mountain asters. Lots and lots of huckleberries and blueberries.
Directions:  From Monroe, drive east on US Hwy 2.  About 0.5 mile past the Ranger Station in Skykomish, turn south (right) on Foss River Road (#68).  In 3.5 miles, veer left on Tonga Ridge Road (#6830).  Follow this road ~6.9 miles and veer right on #310 (not marked as far as I could see) (Do not take the first road on the right at 6 miles.) Drive to the end, ~1 mile.

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Alpine Lakes
North Fork Teanaway Road  (northeast of Cle Elum)
Beverly Creek  (hike - 4 miles r.t.)
See gnarled larch in an open subalpine basin on upper Beverly Creek.
(for details, see Trips and Trails, 1)

Ingalls Lake  (6 miles r.t., 2700 ft gain; 600 ft gain on the way out - hike or backpack)
Climb to the pass and then traverse a mile of larch-dotted basins en route to Ingalls Lake.  At the top of the pass you have stunning views south to Mount Rainier and and a spectacular close-up view of 9,415-foot Mount Stuart, second highest non-volcanic peak in the Cascades.
(for details, see 102 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes, South Cascades, and Olympics or 100 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes)

Directions:  Take I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum. Take exit 85 and drive east on SR 970.  Turn left onto North Fork Teanaway Road and drive to end of pavement (29 Pines CG). Then drive to the end of the North Fork Road and the parking lot (23 miles from SR 970).
Icicle Creek Road  (south of Leavenworth)
Enchantment Lakes  (strenuous backpack - 20 mile r.t.; 5400 ft elev. gain)

Backpack past Snow Lakes (13.5 miles r.t.) to the Lower Enchantment Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.  Go in late September or early October for incredible golden larches, lofty peaks and crags, deep blue tarns and mountain goats.  You are likely to have some snow.  For an even more strenuous trip, continue to the Upper Enchantments. This trip is for the experienced backpacker only (for details, see 100 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes).

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South Cascades
Indian Heaven
East Crater Trail  (2.5 miles r.t.; 630 ft gain - hike or backpack)
Mid-October for fall color; late August for huckleberries; late July for wildflowers.
Hike to Junction Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail.  Turn right on Crest Trail, then immediate left on unmarked trail and wander thru brilliant red and blue huckleberry fields in October.

Directions:  From Trout Lake, drive west on SR141 (after this the FR #'s are different in the old book)

Mount Rainier
Mowich / Eunice Lake  (4-5 mi. r.t.; min. gain - hike)
Great Mt. Rainier views, bright red huckleberry bushes, lake scenics, forest, and cliffs.

Snow Lake / Bench Lake  (2.5 mi. r.t.; 700 ft gain - hike) "rich tapestry of meadows edged with the scarlet of blueberry bushes and mountain ash."

Rainier National Park's Stevens Canyon Road, east of Paradise, on the south side of the road, one mile east of Louise Lake.

Naches Peak Loop  (3.5 mile loop; 500 ft gain - hike)
Late August for huckleberries; mid-October for other fall color.
Brilliant fall color & great views of Mt. Rainier. To get the best views of Mount Rainier, hike the loop in a clockwise direction This loop provides the hiker with breathtaking views of the Mountain, a look at beautiful subalpine meadows, and an abundant supply of huckleberries in late summer and early fall.
9/22/02 trip report:  heard elk callling in the distant; surprised a little bear eating blueberries.

Directions:  From Enumclaw, drive south on SR 410. At the SR 410/SR123 intersection, turn left (east), drive 3.7 miles (over Chinook Pass and past Tipsoo Lake) to the large parking area on the left.

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Columbia Gorge
Oregon Waterfall and Fall Color Hikes
Punchbowl and Other Waterfalls
Late October or early November

From the Columbia River Gorge NSA Fall Color site:
"The leaves on hardwood tree species, such as big-leaf maple, cotton wood, Oregon ash and leafy shrubs are changing colors.  
The Gorge's basalt cliffs and conifers make the brilliant yellow leaves of maple trees stand out.  Red, yellow and orange hues of smaller shrubs such as vine maple add diversity."

According to Gary Luhm, the best fall waterfall hikes are:
  • Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls (4 mi r.t.; 400 ft gain)
  • Tanner Creek to Wahclella Falls (1.8 mi r.t., 340 ft elevation gain)
  • Lower Elowah Falls (1.6 mi r.t.); 
  • Horsetail, Ponytail, Triple Falls (4.2 mi r.t.; 400 ft gain) or just Horsetail, Ponytail (1.2 mi r.t.); 
  • Oneonta Creek (0.4 mi r.t.)   
Directions:  To reach Eagle Creek, take I-84 east to exit 41.  Turn right and follow the road as far as it goes to the Eagle creek trailhead.
To reach Tanner Creek, take I-84 west to exit 40.  Drive under the freeway and follow the signs to Wahclella Falls.
For Elowah Falls take exit 37 if westbound on I-84, exit 35 if eastbound, drive east along the frontage road, and be careful not to get back on the freeway.

Horsetail and Oneonta are adjacent and are reached traveling westbound from exit 35.

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Olympic Peninsula
Sol Duc Area
Seven Lakes Basin  (18.2 mile loop; 3050 ft gain - backpack)
Late Sept / early Oct for fall color
Fall color, mountain scenics, berries.  Elk and Bear sightings are common.  Deer Lake is aptly named.
Kathe Stanness -- "Poor Man's Enchantments" - exquisite tarns, heather, red huckleberriy bushes in fall.

 Take the Edmonds/Kingston or Seattle/ Bainbridge ferry, then cross the Hood Canal Bridge and drive to Port Angeles.  Sol Duc Hot Springs Road is 27 miles west of Port Angeles on Hwy 101.
Follow road to trailhead
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*  Many of these Fall Color hikes were suggested by members of The Mountaineers Photography
    Committee Field Trip Research Team as being particularly good for photography.  
    Locations were further researched by Sunny Walter, Trip Research Coordinator.


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Links checked and updated on:  October 1, 2003
Text and photos are copyright © Sunny Walter (unless otherwise noted)
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