For a refreshing escape, nothing beats walking through the cool mist of a waterfall on the way to a stunning alpine lake. Add in abundant wildlife, wildflowers, and panoramic views, and you have the perfect summer journey.
Your adventure begins less than an hour away from Bellevue, just off U.S. Highway 2. The trail starts on an old railroad grade through a hardwood forest of mostly maple, which gradually transitions to a lush evergreen forest after you cross several small streams and begin to gain elevation slowly.
At 1.7 miles, you will come to a junction past an old roadbed. At this point, a quick half-mile detour to the right takes you to Bridal Veil Falls. Hear the roar of the cascading water crashing down the granite slope. The falls are more powerful in the spring, but it is a lovely side trip any time of the year. In the heat of summer, the spray from the falls is a refreshing respite. In all but the driest months, the short trail will cross small streams and will be quite wet.
There are two lovely viewing platforms, which are great places to enjoy the feel of the cold spray on your skin and take some photographs. In low-water seasons, one can scramble around on the rocks for better views and photo opportunities. Traversing the rocks requires great caution and is not something to let the kids do. The rocks are slippery and the drop-off sudden and steep. This area is beautiful but unforgiving; better to be safe than sorry.
After you’re done enjoying the falls, head back down to the trail and continue on toward the lake. The trail will climb steadily, then work its way up a set of switchbacks, stone steps, and wooden stairs — the trail gains about 1,300 feet in a mile and a half. Right about now, you will be happy you took that nice break to cool off and rest your legs at the falls. Every time you think there just can’t be another switchback, you find one around the next corner. And when you stop to catch your breath, you are treated to another stunning view.
The upper reaches of this trail that don’t get prolonged sunlight can be covered in snow and ice quite late in the season, so watch your step. You’ll round a final bend, climb a small rise, then step into a wooded area. At this point, you might wonder whether the lake actually exists. Then, when you least expect it, like magic, it comes into view, and you know that the hard work to get up here was well worth it. Lake Serene is aptly named.