Tucked high up in the Cascades, Lake Serene offers beautiful views of the snow-covered lake against the 3000-ft vertical cliffs right behind it. The hike takes you through the forest in the lower section, past Bridal Veil Falls, and quickly ascends into snowy terrain before opening up to the lake. I hiked this last month and found it to be a moderate to challenging hike, mainly because of the snow. But with the right preparations it’s a manageable hike with rewarding views and even avalanche sightings!
Lake Serene is easily accessible from Seattle and is just over an hour’s drive from the city. Unlike many trails in Washington, the gravel road was relatively pothole-free and short! I’ve heard the parking lot fills up quickly, but I went on a weekday and there were only 5 other cars in the lot.
The hike is 7.2 miles roundtrip, without the detour to the top of Bridal Veil Falls, with 2000 ft of elevation gain. If you hike this in the winter months, I definitely recommend spikes for the snowy section and hiking poles for a few sketchy parts of the trail.
The trail starts off on a gradual incline on an easy gravel path before turning into the fern-covered trail. We were quickly surrounded by towering trees covered in moss as we meandered up and down through the forest. When I hiked it in March the trail was still wet with small puddles scattered throughout, but it was well maintained and even had some well-constructed wooden bridges!
After descending a series of steps that were too large for humans, we reached the bottom of Bridal Veils Falls. The waterfall cascades down multiple layers of rock and funneled into a stream that we eventually had to cross.
It was all uphill from here as we cleared the tree lines, put on our spikes, and hiked along the slopes of the snow-covered mountains. We followed the narrow trail created by other hikers’ footprints and maintained our balance along the side of the slopes. There were instances where our foot sank through the snow, but the most difficult part was cautiously crossing a river and immediately scaling a 10-foot rock. It was the only way since the trail cut straight across the river. It felt like we were hiking to Everest, minus all the dangers and harsh conditions.
As we approached Lake Serene, we could hear crackling sounds that sounded like fireworks. It wasn’t until we were at the lake that we realized they were avalanches on the other side. It was the noise of ice cracking, even though only small pieces of snow tumbled down the cliffs. I’ve never heard nor seen an avalanche, so this was so fascinating. We were very safe from our side of the lake, by the way.
The entire lake was covered in snow, so we didn’t actually see a lake, but the views were still breathtaking with the sheer cliffs directly behind the lake. We saw low-hanging clouds towards the peaks as the wind blew them across the sky, making the scene even more dramatic.
After snapping some photos and munching on $1 Walmart Sour Patches, we made our way down the trail. Overall, I’d say the trail was not the safest because of the deep snow and the river crossing, but with the right precautions and gears it’s doable. The hike there is one that was definitely memorable for me. And despite the distance and elevation gain, the views and avalanche sightings were well worth it.