Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls

Lake Serene: 100 Classic Hike of Washington

Located in the heart of the Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, Lake Serene is a popular day hiking trail and described as a “Jewel of the First Order” by Ira Springs and Harvey Manning in 100 Classic Hikes of Washington. So why do I dislike this trail so much?

Table of Contents

Where is Lake Serene?

View from Lake Serene

General Information

Region: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest

Distance: 8.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,200′ Gain

When to go: June – October (year-round with proper equipment)

Pass/Permit?: Northwest Forest Pass

Dogs Allowed?: On Leash

Bathroom: Yes

Hiking Lake Serene

This 8.0 mile trail has been enjoyed by many and continues to be a popular hike year-round. In conjunction with Bridal Veil Falls, Lake Serene has some spectacular views throughout the hike.

Lake Serene Trailhead

Beginning at the trailhead the hike slowly meanders with little elevation change for the first 1.5 miles before the trail splits. This gives hikers an option to continue towards Bridal Veil Falls or Lake Serene. This is also where the stairs begin.

Check Out Another 100 Classic Hike: Steamboat Rock Hike

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls along popular day hike

Bridal Veil Falls in only 0.5 miles from the split with an additional 500’ gain in elevation. The falls cascade down a large slab of granite in a sheet of water. In total it adds 1.0 mile to the hike and it is the first taste of the elevation gain that is to come.

Not Sure What to Bring on Your Hike? Read This Next:

 Ten Essentials of Hiking

Lake Serene

Back on the main trail, hikers will climb hundreds of stairs to reach the final destination. Shortly after the split from Bridal Veil Falls, hikers will find themselves climbing over large boulders. This section of the trail is easily lost when crossing over the boulder field and it is easy for hikers to get their feet wet from slippery rocks.

View of Lake Serene on a clear day

Up the stairs you go until you reach a section of the final push with an elevation grade around 30%. Surprisingly, this elevation grade is a relief because after reaching this portion of the trail you only have 0.7 miles of hiking before reaching the lake.

The trail was once part of the property of the world’s largest private timberland owners, who agreed to sell the land for conservation if proper funding was provided. It cost a little more than $800,000. Unable to provide the full funding, falling short nearly $250,000, the land owners agreed to sell for the provided funds given the opportunity to harvest portions of the property prior to sale.

Upon reaching the lake, hikers are struck by the impressive crown of mountain peaks surrounding the lake. The grandeur of this view is beloved by many. 

ExplorenBorgen hiking to Lake Serene

But then you need to walk back to your car. The trek down the trail is taken step after step, stair after stair. This trek can be devastating on the knees and tiresome on the feet. After passing the fork that splits between Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene, you know that it is an easy flat hike from that point forward. However, after gaining over 3,000ft of elevation and hiking 6.5 miles already, that flat 1.5 miles feels like 4.0.

Should Lake Serene be a 100 Classic Hike?

If you have made it this far, you might already know what I am going to say.

No, Lake Serene should not be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. While the end of the trail is beautiful, the trail to the top is laborious. In the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there are hundreds of alpine lakes. Many of which did not make the 100 Classic Hikes list.

ExplorenBorgen at Lake Serene

I understand that Lake Serene-Bridal Veil Falls is loved but what I cannot understand is why the trail seems to be forgotten. There are numerous large trees fallen across the path, stairs that are missing planks. A stream that hikers need to cross that can sometimes be overflowing with water and is in desperate need of a bridge. 

With the lack of trail maintenance, I would almost argue that the trail is unsafe for some visitors.

What should replace Lake Serene as a 100 Classic Hike?

My favorite lake hike near Lake Serene has to be Lake 22. It is a little shorter of a trail and less of a challenge but the views are immaculate and hikers can take the trail around the lake during the summertime. Lake Serene does not have a trail around the lake. 

Lake 22 is more popular than Lake Serene and is extremely well taken care of. Lake 22 even has its own waterfall that hikers can enjoy similar to Bridal Veil Falls.

Honorable Mentions to Replace Bridal Veil Falls:

  1. Mason Lake via Ira Spring Memorial Trail 
  2. Goat Lake 

There are so many trails to choose from and while Lake Serene-Bridal Veil is a good hike, it needs some TLC. I also do not believe that it is better than Lake 22.

What to do post Lake Serene:

Espresso Chalet

Stop by the Espresso Chalet! If you are frequently in the area, you’re likely familiar with the Espresso Chalet, a delicious coffee shop off of Highway 2 with a large Sasquatch carving. This espresso chalet has some of the best views I’ve ever seen for a coffee shop. 

This quaint coffee shop has friendly staff and with each cup of coffee, they give you a chocolate covered espresso bean! It is a necessary pick-me-up after a long hike.

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