Seasoned Northwest Hikers know that the best fall foliage hikes in the region involve larch trees. Washington’s larches are legendary when it comes to gorgeous colors. But many of Washington’s larch hikes are also quite popular. It can get downright crowded at places like Maple Pass, Lake Ingalls, and Cutthroat Pass.
Fortunately there are quieter autumn hiking options—and they don’t involve larches, meaning much shorter drives from Puget Sound cities. Second best foliage shows in these parts is in old burn zones where berry bushes, mountain ashes and other deciduous shrubbery have colonized the scorched hillsides.
Here are three great options for spectacular fall color admiring that you probably never considered. Three great hikes that perhaps you are not familiar with. Three great hikes that overflow with colors and not people. Check them out!
Mount Baker Region
Roundtrip: 6.0 miles to first knoll
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet
kid friendly, dog-friendly
Wander on a high and lonely ridge just south of the 49th parallel. Stare out at a seemingly infinite array of imposing peaks-snowcapped and stone-faced, both here in America and over there in Canada. Meander through meadows that in summer burst in a kaleidoscope of colors, then two months later streak the ridges in crimson and gold.
Black and White Lakes
Olympic National Park
Roundtrip Loop: 16.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
A set of secluded subalpine lakes perched along the high divide separating Olympic National Park and the Mount Skokomish Wilderness. Black and White sit cradled in an old burn zone carpeted in berry bushes and mountain ash that transform the area into living color come autumn.
Mountain Loop Highway
Roundtrip: 6.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Follow the Walt Bailey Trail through mature forest to the Cutthroat Lakes; a series of small tarns surrounded by heather meadows tucked beneath the long ridge of Bald Mountain. Here an old burn transformed the surroundings into parkland meadows that scream a wide spectrum of vivid colors come October.