Hiking for Gold

Autumn is the time when many in the Pacific Northwest make the trek to the North Cascades to drive the Mountain Loop and North Cascade Highways in search of fall color, apple cider, and huckleberry jam.

But have you ever hiked to see a larch, a deciduous conifer? Unlike most conifers, such as cedar and fir, which are evergreen, the larch drops its needles in winter. But before that happens, they turn a vibrant gold.

Larch are at their peak for about two weeks, usually beginning in October. It can be tricky to catch them in their full golden glory before the needles drop, or they become inaccessible due to snowfall closing the highway.

About three hours from Bellevue, Washington the Maple Pass Loop hike starts at the Rainy Pass trailhead and provides stunning mountain and lake views. If you take the loop clockwise, you’ll get the steepest part of the hike out of the way when your legs are fresh. You can add a little over a half-mile to your trip to visit Lake Ann. There are also many other alpine lakes in the area for the seasoned cross-country hiker.

This is an area of rugged natural beauty that is awe-inspiring at any time of the year, but if you see the larches as they change color, it is pretty special.

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