Five Best Pacific Northwest Alpine Lakes to Visit this Fall

There's nothing more refreshing than jumping in a lake. The Pacific Northwest features hundreds of alpine lakes with unique beauty all year round. Some feature vibrant fall foliage or enchanting snowscapes, and some make for a perfect summer swim. Here are 5 alpine lakes we recommend visiting while the weather stays warm…

Lake Serene in Washington
Photo Credit: Ryan Stone

1. Lake Serene

Snohomish County, WA

Heading to this spot in the summer means a trail lined with thimbleberries, huckleberries, and blueberries. This day hike is popular for a reason. On your way up, take a detour to Bridal Veil Falls and allow the spray from the waterfall to cool you off before ascending to the awe-inspiring view of Lake Serene. You can enjoy the view of the Cascade mountains, try your hand at fishing, or go for a (pretty chilly) swim. The sunset above the lake is spectacular, so consider a night hike instead for a more solitary scene.

Photo Credit: Dave Hoefler

2. Lake Crescent

Olympic National Park, WA

Settled in the middle of lush forest, this glacier-fed lake is a perfect day-trip. If you want to take advantage of the several hiking trails and stay for a stunning sunset, snag a campsite. Reaching this lake takes only a short walk, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy lakeside activities upon arrival. On a sunny day, go for a swim in the clear turquoise waters. Kayaks and other water activity rentals are available all along the shore, so there’s certainly something for everyone. If you’ve had enough of the beach and want to get back into the forest, take an easy hike to Marymere Falls.

Photo Credit: Samantha Sun

3. Colchuck Lake

Leavenworth, WA

Although rated as a difficult hike, the path to Colchuck Lake is a perfect day-hike and a great alternative to the Enchantment Lakes beyond, where summer overnight permits are decided by a lottery. Colchuck Lake is a popular destination, best hiked between April and October. An early morning start is recommended to avoid traffic on the trail. The magical greenery of the trail opens to a stunning view of the Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks above the shining glacier-fed water. Take in the enchanting view, and maybe take a dip before heading back down!

Photo Credit: Perry Kibler

4. Lake Cushman

Mason County, WA

Although this lake has plenty to offer on its own, its proximity to PNW hiking highlights makes it a perfect addition to a long weekend outdoors. Olympic National Park rises to the north, making Lake Cushman an excellent starting point for some serious views. The trail to Mount Ellinor brings you to one of the Olympic Peninsula’s most popular summits, or follow a trail through Copper Creek canyon to see the abandoned Apex Mine site. Back at Lake Cushman, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and cliff jumping are popular ways to get moving. At the end of an activity-filled day, the view of the night sky above the lake makes reserving a campsite well worth it.

Photo Credit: Amy Hanley

5. Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park, OR

The National Park website describes Oregon’s most popular national park as “Deep Water in a Sleeping Volcano.” Already sold? There’s so much more to say! Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US, and because all of the water comes directly from snow or rain, it’s one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the world. With an average 43 feet of snow each year, Crater Lake National Park is one of the snowiest places in the country. Be sure to check which roads and services are open before making your trip, as unexpected snowstorms can slow things down even in the summer months. Hike the islands made from volcanic remains, cycle with a view, and stay at the campground before it closes for the early winter.

Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, any of these Alpine Lakes will provide a magical view to match. If your summer lacked in lake days, it’s not too late to add a day trip to your agenda!

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