Spring Wildflower and Photography Hikes

Editorial: You wanted another excuse to get out and see wildflowers, right? Here are three more favorites from Karen Sykes. 

Remember, ideal conditions cannot be guaranteed; please contact the appropriate land-management agency for up-to-date trail and road conditions, carry the ten essentials and prepared for conditions you may encounter.

Below are some of our favorite late spring Washington hikes, early summer hikes with the focus on photography without much risk to life, limb and happiness. The trails described here were hiked in May/June/early July of 2012 (conditions may have changed over the winter).

Remember to stop and smell the wildflowers!

Laughingwater Creek Trail (South Cascades)

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While this June hike is mostly in the forest it is forest at its finest with old-growth trees, moss and early spring flowers including violets and Calypso orchids. At about 6 miles you’ll come to pretty Three Lakes and a rustic patrol cabin, a scenic spot to call it a day (bring plenty of mosquito repellant if you linger at the lake(s). Note the handsome old-growth Alaska cedars along the trail with their gray, shaggy bark. From Three Lakes backpackers often spend a night at Three Lakes, and then continue further, hooking up with the Pacific Crest Trail and other destinations.

Getting there: From Enumclaw go east on Highway 410 and turn off at Cayuse Pass onto Highway 123 which leads to the Stevens Canyon Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park (roughly 13 miles from Cayuse Pass). Do not go into the park but proceed about 1/3 of a mile beyond it to the trailhead (left), elevation 2,000 feet. Parking is limited with room for only a few vehicles. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Map: The maps are Green Trails No. 270 Mount Rainier East and Green Trails No. 271 Bumping Lake. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Stats: It is a little over 12 miles round-trip to Three Lakes, about 2,825 feet gain.

For additional information on Laughingwater Creek, camping at Three Lakes and other trails in or near the park visit the Mount Rainier National Park website or call 360-569-2211.

Lake Serene/Bridal Veil Falls

This trail is hiked (or snowshoed) most of the year; however we suggest waiting for the snow to melt as there are avalanche slopes near the lake. The trail replaces the potentially hazardous “old” Lake Serene trail, a challenging route over roots and slippery rocks. The lake sits below the intimidating cliffs of Mount Index – around the lakeshore there are rocky outcrops that overlook the lake providing better views of the peak. For a side-trip (or a shorter hike) you can also hike the trail to Bridal Veil Falls that takes off from the Lake Serene Trail; Bridal Veil Falls is a stunner. Both trails have been improved with steps seemingly built for giants; hikers either love or hate them.

Getting there: Drive US 2 (Stevens Pass Highway) to milepost 35 (east of Gold Bar), turn right onto Mount Index Road, continue 1/3 of a mile, following signs for Lake Serene to trailhead and facilities, elevation 640 feet. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Map: Green Trails (No. 142) Index

Stats: Bridal Veil Falls is four miles round trip with a gain of 1,000 feet. Lake Serene is seven miles round-trip with an elevation gain of about 1,600 feet.

Additional Information: Call the Skykomish Ranger District at 360-677-2414 or visit the website for Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.

Silver Falls/Eastside Trail

Though the Ohanapecosh Campground will be closed this year because of the sequester, you can still hike to Silver Falls and/or part-way up the Eastside Trail as far as conditions allow. The Silver Falls trail is well-marked and begins on Highway 123 via Cayuse Pass. You can also hike the lower stretch of the Eastside Trail from Ohanapecosh as far as conditions allow – be sure to take the map as there are several junctions and bridges may be out. Later in summer you can hike the Eastside Trail from Ohanapecosh to Chinook Pass (or vice versa). The Eastside Trail does not melt out at higher elevations until late summer. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Map: Green Trails No. 269S Mount Rainier Wonderland

Stats: Silver Falls from Ohanapecosh its 2.7 miles (or a 5.5 mile loop), gain approximately 500 feet. Stats for the Eastside Trail will vary depending on how far you hike and where you start.

For additional information on Silver Falls or the Eastside Trail contact Mount Rainier National Park at the link and number above.

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About the author

Karen is a Washington native raised near the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. She has been hiking since the early 1980s and hikes year-round. Karen has published articles and photographs in The Seattle Post Intelligencer (she wrote “Hike of the Week” for the Seattle Post Intelligencer for several years) and has also been published in Washington Trails Magazine (formerly Pack and Paddle and Signpost), Enumclaw-PATCH, Sierra and The Seattle Times. Mountaineer Books published her book "Hidden Hikes" (out of print) and she was co-author of "Best Wildflower Hikes, Washington. In addition to hiking Karen scrambles, snowshoes and is also a runner.

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