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Late Fall Hikes for Vibrant Reds

As the fall season comes to a close, many hikes throughout the state of Washington still retain the bright colors of the season. Enjoy the crisp autumn air and rich red hues before the end of the season.

Hyper-bright huckleberries and vibrant vine maples; fall is when the mountains of Washington shed their green reputation in favor of multi-color displays. Winter may be right around the corner, but there is still time to savor the flaming colors of the leaves and perhaps squeeze in a camping trip before the cold sets in.

Tips


North Cascades

Church Mountain

Mileage: 8.5, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3750 feet
Church Mountain Photo by BirdWalker.jpeg
See the summit views and fall foliage along the trail up Church Mountain. Photo by BirdWalker.

The rewards for this strenuous hike are a bouquet of fall colors and a vast panorama of North Cascades mountains. As you meander through the meadows, you will not see any of those notable golden larch trees, but the vibrant fall colors brought out by the abundance of huckleberry bushes that blanket the meadow and the ridge above in hues of green, red, purple and gold.

>> Plan your visit to Church Mountain

Ridley Creek

Mileage: 7.0, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2600 feet


Find a splendid variety of colorful plant life at Ridley Creek. Photo by Jay L.

Visit a trail less traveled with a hike to Ridley Creek. Home to iconic groves of Western Hemlock and Alaskan Yellow Cedar, the meadows along the trail also turn into a great place to see the wonderful colors of nature in the fall. At the end of the trail is the Mazama Park Horse Camp in the Mount Baker National Recreation Area for those who would like to extend their autumn adventure in the mountains. 

>> Plan your visit to Ridley Creek


Central Cascades

Lake Valhalla

Mileage: 7.0, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

While delightful during any season, Lake Valhalla is especially dazzling in autumn. Photo by Loren Drummond.

Lake Valhalla is a gem, tucked under Lichtenberg Mountain and Mount McCausland on the PCT North of Stevens Pass. The lake is a great day hike in fall and is still accessible by snowshoe in the winter. Fall colors make vivid surroundings in autumn. The moderate trail at Lake Valhalla makes a great destination for the whole family, including leashed dogs.

>> Plan your visit to Lake Valhalla

Merritt Lake and Lost Lake

Mileage: 5.5, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2100 feet

Adventure through the old growth forest and see fall colors at Merritt Lake and Lost Lake. Photo by Sarah_Anne. 

Merritt Lake is nestled under Nason Ridge a dozen miles east of Stevens Pass. This is just far enough from the crest to leave west side clouds behind. Keep your ears open to hear the occasional sound of a train whistle as you enjoy this old growth trail. 

>> Plan your visit to Merritt Lake and Lost Lake


South Cascades

Smith Creek

Mileage: 6.0, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Find mountain views and changing trees on the Smith Creek trail. Photo by rosemarylp.

Nestled between Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens, Smith Creek is filled with natural beauty and mountain views. Lucky hikers may even be able to spot an elk or two. Mountain bikers also love to take in the fall colors on the lower Smith Creek trail, so be sure to brush up on your right-of-way basics

>> Plan your visit to Smith Creek

Thomas, blue and tombstone lakes

Mileage: 7.0, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1015 feet

Vibrant lakes and leaves are abundant at Thomas, Blue and Tombstone Lakes. Photo by BeaverDawg.

The Indian Heaven Wilderness has also been known as the land of many lakes, and the trail to Thomas, Blue and Tombstone packs up to 10 lakes in one hike. Local wildlife such as elk, deer or even a black bear can be spotted in the area. It is a good idea to be prepared to hike in bear country before you go just in case you do run into the occasional bear.

>> Plan your visit to Thomas, Blue and Tombstone Lakes


Olympics

silver lakes

Mileage: 11.0 roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3400 feet

Autumn Trail by lydiadventuring.jpeg
Find tranquility and gorgeous mountain views at the Silver Lakes. by lydiadventuring.

These quiet little lakes tucked on the south side of Mount Townsend make a delightful respite from the crowds that are trucking up Townsend. Consider spending the night for this adventure as the roundtrip hike goes into the double digits.

>> Plan your visit to Silver Lakes

North fork skokomish river & flapjack lakes

Mileage: 15.4, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3050 feet

Hike for the day or stay for the night at the North Fork Skokomish River & Flapjack Lakes. Photo by Lucy.

The North Fork Skokomish River is a beautiful, low-elevation trek with plenty of pit stop opportunities. If the 15+ roundtrip mileage for Flapjack Lakes feels a bit daunting for a day hike, Slide Camp at 1.6 miles, and Big Log Camp at 5.5 miles provide equally as lovely stopping points. The North Fork Skokomish River Trail follows part of the exploratory route traveled by the scientists and soldiers lead by Lieutenant O’Neil across the Olympics in 1890. Follow in their footsteps, and you'll venture through fantastic Douglas-firs, towering cedars and colorful big-leaf maple trees.

>> Plan your visit to North Fork Skokomish River & Flapjack Lakes


Central Washington

cowiche canyon

Mileage: 6.0, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Cowiche Canyon is perfect for geology enthusiasts. Photo (c) David Hagen.

Walk beneath stunning basalt and andesite cliffs along a beautiful creek with wildflowers in the spring, stunning color in the fall and a side trip for a glass of wine and snacks. Avid bird watches should keep their eyes peeled for the raptor and vultures that can be seen circling over the cliffs. The Cowiche Canyon Trail may be short, but it sure is sweet.

>> Plan your visit to Cowiche Canyon

tieton river nature trail

Mileage: 6.75, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet

The Tieton River Nature Trail is enjoyable for the whole family. Photo by CiscoKitty.

Along the way through the Tieton River trail, you'll enjoy a ramble along the river, impressive geologic formations, and relative solitude. The trail is best walked in the fall for some of the most spectacular fall color you’ll ever see. It’s also a nice snowshoe or cross-country ski in the winter when there is snow on the ground. Local wildlife can be found enjoying this picturesque piece of wilderness too. 

>> Plan your visit to Tieton River Nature Trail


Eastern Washington

Pipsissewa trail

Mileage: 4.2, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 860 feet

Pipsisswa Trail Photo by Billiam64.jpeg
Find a plethora of fall colors on the Pipsissewa Trail. Photo by Billiam64.

The Pipsissewa Trail in the Okanogan Highlands/Kettle River Range is full of color during late autumn. Starting at the Bonaparte Lake campground, the trail provides views of massive Ponderosa pines and the beautiful Bonaparte Lake itself. Be sure to be careful as you may see a temperamental moose along this picturesque trail.

>> Plan your visit to the Pipsisswa Trail

Mount spokane state park - Mount kit carson Trail

Mileage: 7.5, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

Mount Kit Carson Photo by Mark Ament..jpg
The Mount Kit Carson Trail has both dense forest and mountain vista views. Photo by Mark Ament.

Find mountain views, dense forests and open meadows on the Mount Kit Carson Trail. Located in Mount Spokane State Park, this trail connects to a vast system of mountain trails. Leashed dogs are welcome, so bring your furry friend out for some fun fall exercise. Milege: 7.5 miles, roundtrip Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

>>Plan your trip to Spokane State Park - Mount Kit Carson Trail


Southwest Washington

Chinook Trail

Mileage: 2.4, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1340 feet


Discover the beauty of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the Chinook Trail. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

Not too far from Portland is the Chinook Trail. Also known as the Kloochman Butte Trail by locals, the Chinook Trail is a part of the extensive and beautiful Silver Star trail system. Wonder through young Douglas-fir forests and marvelous meadows on this fantastic trail.

>>Plan your trip to the Chinook Trail

LIttle huckleberry mountain

Mileage: 5.0, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1800 feet

Little Huckleberry Mountain Photo by rosemarylp.jpeg
Find stunning views of Mount Adams and other Cascade Peaks at the top of Little Huckleberry Mountain. Photo by rosemarylp.

The peak of Little Huckleberry Mountain supplies excellent views of Mount Adams and other breathtaking Cascade peaks. Located in the Columbia River Gorge area, this steep hike is work the effort. Along with the mountain views and autumnal hues, remains of a former fire lookout can be found at the summit of Little Huckleberry Mountain.

>>Plan your trip to Little Huckleberry Mountain


City Parks

Perhaps the best thing about fall colors is their easy accessibility. These close-in parks can give you those same feelings of fall without warranting a multi-hour drive.