Seattle, WA: Bridal Veil Falls Loop to Lake Serene

Take this beloved and well-maintained 6.6-mile trail through abundant greenery and past the enchanting Bridal Veil Falls to arrive at the snowy peaks of Mount Index reflecting in Lake Serene.
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Take this beloved and well-maintained 6.6-mile trail through abundant greenery and past the enchanting Bridal Veil Falls to arrive at the snowy peaks of Mount Index reflecting in Lake Serene.

In the spring, expect flocks of hikers on the Bridal Veil Falls Loop to Lake Serene. Popular for over 50 years, the Lake Serene Trail #1068 got a makeover in the late 1990’s; a re-route that smoothed the once treacherous trail. These days the Lake Serene Trail is still a workout, with 23 switchbacks winding up the steep shoulders of Mount Index. But the scenery is well worth the effort. In less than 7 miles, expect several crashing waterfalls, topped off with one of the best views of Mount Index in Washington, unique to the rocky shores of Lake Serene.

The route begins innocently enough – it follows a logging road with a mild grade, reserving most of the elevation for the end of the hike. For those interested in extending their time on the trail, more than one side-trip is available along the path to the lake. Early in the hike, a short spur gives access to the old Honeymoon Mine, which is reported to be relatively safe and interesting to explore. To find it, look for a clearing along the logging road just before the first creek crossing. The unmarked trail is at the far end of the clearing. Additionally, about a mile in, just before the trail hits the switchbacks and elevation gain, a well-signed path winds steeply up to Bridal Veil Falls and an expansive overview of the valley below. The glimpses of Bridal Veil Falls seen from Highway 2 as it passes under Mount Index do little justice to the experience of standing at the base of the cascade; this detour is highly recommendable.

From the falls, one can backtrack down to the main trail, or, for those thirsty for adventure, follow the faint bootpath up the mountainside. While this route shaves off almost two miles from the trip and avoids crowds that normally clog the trail during warm months, it more than makes up for it in steepness. It is easy to lose track of the path, which at times is completely obscured or blocked with blowdowns. Occasional ribbons mark the way, but when in doubt, hug the creek and follow the path of least resistance. Steep, tricky and occasionally frustrating, this route is not for the faint of heart. However, the effort is rewarded by an enchanting waterfall tucked halfway between Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. Impressive in their own right, the falls make a great spot to catch your breath before scaling the rest of the way to the top.

At first, the satisfaction of making it up to the lake basin is euphoric in and of itself, but it is almost immediate washed away by the sight of Lake Serene backdropped by the imposing cliffs of Mount Index. Once you catch your breath, follow the path as far as it will go around the lake to a popular lunch spot, or find your own little nook to take in the lake. More than likely you’re going to have some company, but there is more than enough of Index to go around.

-Mapped by Jeremy and Nathan Barnes, hikingwithmybrother.com

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.6

Waypoints

SER001

Location: 47.809056, -121.573847

Lake Serene Trail #1068 begins gently by following an old logging road.

SER002

Location: 47.807371, -121.573541

Road junction. Veer right and continue on the Lake Serene Trail.

SER003

Location: 47.792822, -121.570488

Bridal Veil Falls Trail. Turn right and go .5 mile up to the falls. Turn left and follow trail southeast to skip the Falls and continue on the Lake Serene Trail. Either way, prepare for great inclination within a half-mile.

SER004

Location: 47.790013, -121.569373

Lower tier of Bridal Veil Falls. If you have excellent route finding skills and scrambling skills, you can follow the path to the right of the falls — the direct route to Lake Serene. Otherwise, backtrack down to the Lake Serene Trail.

SER005

Location: 47.789418, -121.569644

Top of Bridal Veil Falls.

SER006

Location: 47.789167, -121.570371

Upper Falls.

SER007

Location: 47.786107, -121.570952

Follow a short spur down to the Valley View Lookout.

SER008

Location: 47.784791, -121.572062

Turn right at the junction to go up to Lunch Rock.

SER009

Location: 47.784292, -121.572276

Lunch Rock.

Lake Serene

Location: 47.784211, -121.572315

Frozen Lake Serene. The crags of Mount Index rise above its shores.

Trailhead

Location: 47.80904, -121.573859

Bulletin marking the start of the trail.

Follow the hiker

Location: 47.807325, -121.573564

At a junction in the road, a hiker sign points toward the correct way.

Signpost

Location: 47.792804, -121.570491

Turn right to go uphill to Bridal Veil Falls, or continue straight to go to Lake Serene.

Stairway to Veil

Location: 47.790317, -121.569241

A wooden staircase hugs the creek on the final approach to the Falls.

Base of Veil

Location: 47.790151, -121.569268

Hikers admiring the base of the Falls.

Drop off

Location: 47.78943, -121.569541

Standing near the top of Bridal Veil Falls.

Upper Falls

Location: 47.789156, -121.570249

View of the crashing Upper Falls.

Scrambling

Location: 47.788335, -121.570807

Scrambling up tree roots on the rough forest path.

Lunch Rock

Location: 47.784269, -121.572191

A popular hangout for sun worshipers in the summer, lunch rock is the perfect ending for views of Lake Serene.

Valley Views

Location: 47.787902, -121.564332

Views of valley and peaks.