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Golden Hikes for Fall

Autumn hiking is golden in more ways than one. Besides the leaves and larches burning brightly on alpine slopes, the shorter days mean you'll catch more sunrises and sunsets.

Autumn hiking is golden in more ways than one. Besides the leaves and larches burning brightly on alpine slopes, the shorter days mean you'll catch more sunrises and sunsets. And if you know where to look, you might just spot a yellow fungus among the browns and greens of the forest floor.

    Shorter days, colder nights and quick-changing weather patterns can make even a simple hike more risky than your average summer excursion, so pack the 10 Essentials, and check conditions before you head out. (Your destination may already be covered in snow!)

    Try one of the hikes below or share your own fall favorites in a Trip Report.


    Perry Creek

    Location: North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
    Mileage: 10.5 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 3400 feet
    Golden Feature: Fall foliage

    Perry Creek by lomorg.jpeg
    Late September at Perry Creek. Photo by lomorg.

    Perry Creek is a popular trail for many reasons. In the fall, the golden fall colors make an impressive showing and the sunsets are equally impressive. Mountain views round out the package, making this a great hike before winter sets in.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


    Hannegan Pass (and Copper Ridge Loop)

    Location: North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
    Mileage: 10.4 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 3100 feet
    Golden Feature: Fall foliage, stunning sunsets

    Hannegan Pass by tintin.jpegSunset at Hannegan Pass. Photo by tintin.

    Hannegan Pass provides a great way to see the reverse side of Mount Shuksan, a mountain most hikers only see from the north from Artist Point. Along with the incredible mountain views and subsequent alpine sunsets, the fall foliage is impressive as you pick your way up the pass. Make a bigger trip of it by hiking the Copper Ridge Loop to take in even more golden sunsets and flora.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


    Evergreen Mountain Lookout

    Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
    Mileage: 2.6 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 1425 feet
    Golden Feature: Golden grasses, red huckleberries and stunning sunsets

    Sunset Evergreen Mountain by Erik.jpeg
    Sunset from Evergreen Mountain Lookout. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

    In fall, Evergreen Mountain Lookout sports vibrant reds and oranges. Be prepared for a long drive on a bumpy road, but for those willing to venture forth, this makes a great hike at any time of day. Sunset brings out the most stunning colors, but be sure and bring a headlamp.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


    South Fork Silver Creek to Gunsight Pass

    Location: Eastern Washington -- Selkirk Range
    Mileage: 14.0 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 2370 feet
    Golden Feature: Larches, aspen and fall camping

    Silver Creek by Derrick Knowles.jpegIt's hard to beat fall camping! Photo by Derek Knowles.

    The aspen groves and golden larch a sight to behold on this remote hike through a seldom-seen corner of the Colville National Forest. Don't miss the spur trail 6-miles in to a scenic overlook that takes in the Silver Creek drainage. It's the best vantage point to absorb the full array of fall color on the surrounding slopes. If you prefer a hike with more views along the way, head to Sherlock Mountain instead.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


    Sullivan Lake

    Location: Eastern Washington -- Selkirk Range
    Mileage: 8.2 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 150 feet
    Golden Feature: Larches, aspen, hemlocks, fall camping

    A colorful sunset over the water at Sullivan Lake.
    Sunset colors on above Lake Sullivan. Photo by Isabel Shinnick-Gordon.

    Wander woods reminiscent of eastern hardwood forest, filled with aspen, hemlock and birch along the largest natural lake in the Colville National Forest — plus enjoy one of the best western larch displays in Eastern Washington. It's a great hike for both kids and dogs on leash. And, there are some wonderful fall camping opportunities.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


    Thomas, Blue and Tombstone Lakes

    Location: South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area
    Mileage: 7.0 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 1015 feet
    Golden Feature: Foliage and ripe berries

    Tombstone Lake by lexi&scout.jpeg
    Tombstone Lake. Photo by lexi&scout.

    Ripe berries and fall foliage are two of the many reasons to hike the Thomas, Blue and Tombstone Lakes trail. Along the way you'll be treated to views of the many lakes that dot the Indian Heaven Wilderness. Hiking this trail in fall also helps alleviate some of the mosquito issues that are present in the summer.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


    Starway

    Location: Southwest Washington -- Lewis River Region
    Mileage: 11.0 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 2377 feet
    Golden Feature: alpine slopes aglow in fall foliage, ridgetop sunsets

    Starway by Anna Roth.jpeg
    A golden ridgeline at Starway. Photo by Anna Roth.

    Though a bit of a workout, the destination at Starway is worth the effort. Golden grasses grow on ridgelines and sunsets are bountiful here. Trail navigation may be difficult, so bring a compass and map and prepare to have the trail to yourself.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide 


    Golden Gate

    Location: Mount Rainier -- Paradise
    Mileage: 3.2 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
    Golden Feature: high golden meadows

    Golden Gate by Bob and Barb.jpeg
    The fall colors along the Golden Gate trail. Photo by Bob and Barb.

    With a name like Golden Gate you can probably take a guess at what colors will greet you along the trail in fall. The foliage is the highlight here as you wander through brilliant yellows, reds and golds. The meadows are impressive, as is the view of Mount Rainier.

    > Plan your visit using WTA's Hiking Guide 


    Skyscraper Pass

    Location: Mount Rainier -- Sunrise/White River
    Mileage: 6.8 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
    Golden Feature: Mount Rainier's glaciers in the golden hour

    Skyscraper Mountain by Hikingqueen.jpeg
    Mount Rainier from Skyscraper Pass. Photo by Hikingqueen.

    The top of Skyscraper Pass is a great place to take in the rising sun on Mount Rainier's glaciers. If you look around though you'll find that other mountain views are equally as enchanting, making it a good spot for sunset as well.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


    Kamiak Butte

    Location: Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains
    Mileage: 3.5 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 900 feet
    Golden Feature: wheat fields and stunning sunsets

    Kamiak Butte by RLucido.jpeg
    Golden wheat fields seen from Kamiak Butte. Photo by RLucido.

    This relatively short hike provides impressive views of the golden wheat fields that make up the Palouse. After 900 feet of climbing the ridge opens up and miles of agricultural fields stretch out below. The sunsets here are especially colorful.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


    Quinault National Recreation Trails

    Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
    Mileage: 4.25 miles, roundtrip
    Elevation Gain: 350 feet
    Golden Feature: foliage and fungus (maybe a chanterelle or two)

    Lake Quinault by Ruth Middlebrook.jpg
    The Olympic Peninsula offers interesting flora to investigate. Photo by Ruth Middlebrook.

    With lots of options to choose from, the Quinault National Recreation Trails offer a little bit of everything. The rainforest is the true draw here, with giant trees, unique marshy foliage and some mushrooms if you look closely.

    > Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide