Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls
Hike description: You’ll hear it if you wait around long enough at Lake Serene this time of year.
Crack. Then the rumble of an avalanche crashing down the steep slopes of Mount Index.
The trail to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls near Index has plenty to offer. You get up close with waterfalls and sneak some pretty thrilling views of the Cascades.
But the highlight is sitting above Lake Serene (still frozen over when we visited March 19) and staring up at the rocky spires of Mount Index.
It’s no wonder this is one of the most popular hikes along state Route 2. Arrive early if you want a parking spot. Better yet, go on a weekday.
If you plan on heading all the way to the lake while there are still snowy slopes and snow bridges to cross, micro spikes and trekking poles are highly recommended.
One of the beauties of this hike is you don’t have to climb all the way to the lake to have a fulfilling trip.
The spur trail to Bridal Veil Falls gets you so close to the thundering falls you’ll need a raincoat if you don’t want the mist to dampen your clothes. Even this short spur trail has a steep snow field to cross in early spring.
Back on the trail to the lake, there are more places to encounter the falls. View them above from a wood bridge over Bridal Veil Creek. And, a few minutes later, cross in front of the falls while hopping from rock to rock in an attempt to keep your boots and socks dry.
Most of the climbing is in the section between the Bridal Veil cutoff and Lake Serene. Steps have been built into the trail in many areas. Expect the wood steps and lingering snow to be slippery. On our recent trip all but one in our four-person party took a tumble. One fell three times.
Being comfortable traveling on snow and assessing snow hazards are likely to be important on this route for several more weeks. After crossing a few snow fields and leaping over four small snow bridges created by creeks flowing under the snow, the lake finally comes into view
On our visit we didn’t find a safe way to descend to the lake shore. For those who might, the ice covering the lake clearly is unsafe to walk on.
Directions: From state Route 2 near milepost 35, turn right on Mount Index Road. Turn and follow the signs to the Lake Serene Trail.
Difficulty rating: 3-4, depending on conditions (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 8.5.
Elevation gain: 2,600 feet.
Best time of the year: March-November (but wait until May if you’re looking to avoid snowy slopes).
Map: Green Trails 142: Index.
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass.
Also: Camping is not permitted at Lake Serene. There are restrooms and trash cans at the trailhead. Dogs are permitted, but must be kept on a leash and cleaned up after. There are several geocaches in the area, according to geocaching.com.