NOVEMBER 11, 2007 – It was 40° and a misty, foggy morning when I left the Lake Serene trailhead, elevation 600’. It is obvious that these woods see a fair amount of rain. The trees were shrouded in moss, dripping with moss, and hosting colonies of ferns and mushrooms. The first mile and a half of this trail is an abandoned road that narrows to a trail about the time you begin to hear the roar of Bridal Veil Falls. At 1 ¾ miles, a short but steep side trail climbs up to a spectacular viewpoint of the middle falls. Nothing I read had prepared me for the beauty and power of the falls, or for the massive, sheer wall they spill down. Taking this trail adds 1 mile and 200’ of elevation gain to the hike, but it is well worth the time and effort. The main trail also affords a nice view of lower Bridal Veil Falls from a bridge over Bridal Veil Creek, and the falls remain visible as you climb the first few switchbacks to the lake. Typical of an Alpine Lakes Wilderness trail, this trail is rocky and steep. There are 23 switchbacks and over 100 stairs to climb that ease the steep grade of the trail. Although I don’t generally like a trail with stairs, even I could see the advantage they provide on this trail. It is very rough in spots, and if the aggressive drain dips and mammoth water bars are any indication, it is subjected to very harsh weather conditions.
I climbed above the low-lying clouds at about 1500’ and the views of the surrounding valleys and peaks were very dramatic. I finally reached Lake Serene, elevation 2521’ and spent a few minutes admiring the lake and massive Mount Index. The lake is elegant and quiet, and I was amazed that such a small lake could be the source of powerful Bridal Veil Falls. It is a glacier fed lake and has the high color created by glacial flour. The lake was steel grey on this day, matching the skies and surrounding peaks, except along the shoreline, where it was clear and a deep turquoise blue. Because I needed to begin my hike back to the trailhead, and the bridge over the outlet stream was slippery with compacted snow, I didn’t spend much time exploring. But since it is a small area and confined by the granite cliffs that surround the lake, it must become very crowded on a fine summer day. I got a late morning start on this hike, spent too much time staring at Bridal Veil Falls and consequently found myself still hiking up to Lake Serene 30 minutes past my turn-around time. I managed to hike out of the woods with just 10 minutes to spare before it became dark enough to need a light.
Including the side trip to the Bridal Veil Falls overlook:
8.6 miles roundtrip2200' elevation gain