How To Hike Bridal Veil Falls + Lake Serene Trail



Lake Serene Trail and Bridal Veil Falls hike in Washington by Where Are Those Morgans

Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls Trail is a challenging 8.2-mile roundtrip hike with 2,800 ft elevation gain near Index, Washington. We climbed to both natural landmarks and the best way we can describe the hike is to call it a quintessential PNW trail because you’ll walk through old growth forest to a tall waterfall and a picturesque glacial lake. And it’s a steep one, so you can expect to feel the burn!

In this guide we walk you through hiking to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene in Washington for the first time, based on our own experiences.

Our Experience

Mark and Kristen Morgan from Where Are Those Morgans crouched on knees for a photo with Lake Serene on a misty day in Washington
Here we are at the lake summit on a foggy afternoon in October

Lake Serene Trail was among the final few hikes we did after living near Seattle for 6 months in the summer of 2021. We hiked Wallace Falls State Park Trail in the morning, ate lunch at Zeke’s Drive In and then climbed up to Lake Serene in the afternoon. Oh how we miss hiking in the Cascade Mountains!

We decided to hike Lake Serene because it had excellent reviews on Google Maps and All Trails, and we’d also heard good things from local Washingtonians who we’d met on trails throughout the summer. It was a misty and cool Monday afternoon in early October, so the trail was very quiet. Read more about us.

Route Options

Map of a hiking trail on the trailhead information board
You can study the trailhead map and information before setting off

There are 3 ways you can hike the trail:

  • Lake Serene only (hard)
  • Bridal Veil Falls only (moderate)
  • Both Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene (hard)

The first half of the hike until reaching the spur trail leading to Bridal Veil Falls is by far the easiest section. It’s not until you start climbing the switchbacks to Lake Serene that the main trail becomes challenging. With that said, the spur trail to Bridal Veil Falls is quite steep, but we’d still say it’s only moderately difficult.

From experience, we recommend you prioritize Lake Serene over Bridal Veil Falls if you’re not sure about doing the whole trail. The waterfall is great, but there’s plenty of better waterfalls in Washington, and the lake is awesome.

We hiked the whole thing and we’re going to show you how to do the same in this guide.

Trail Information

  • Distance: 8.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2,800 feet
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard

The hike to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene isn’t something you should take lightly. It’s a bit of a beast, especially at the top of the switchbacks near the lake. It took us around 5 hours 45 minutes, but we stopped for 30 minutes at the lake to take photos and refuel.

After hiking hundreds of trails in Washington, the US and around the world, we’d personally rate Lake Serene Trail as being on the harder side of moderately difficult. As long as you’re a regular hiker and you’re happy with the high amount of elevation gain, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Lake Serene Trailhead Parking

Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls trailhead parking lot in Washington
Gravel parking lot you’ll find at the trailhead

The trailhead parking lot for hiking Lake Serene Trail is located 7.5 miles from the small town of Gold Bar along US Route 2 (Stevens Highway) in northwest Washington State. You’ll turn off route 2 onto Mount Index Road near the South Fork Skykomish Bridge.

  • Set your Google Maps destination for Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead parking lot and hit directions.

There were around 15 cars parked the afternoon we hiked to Lake Serene on a wet and cloudy weekday in October. We didn’t count the spaces exactly, but it was something like 50 spots in total. So we recommend arriving early if you plan to hike on a weekend, especially in summer.

Passes And Fees

Passes for parking in Washington State forested land

Lake Serene Trail is in National Forest land, so you need to display either a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass, otherwise known as an Interagency Pass.

  • Northwest Forest Pass – Includes access to all National Forest land in both Washington and Oregon. You can buy day passes for $5 or annual passes for $30.
  • America the Beautiful Pass – Includes entry to all US national parks, national monuments, national forests and more for 1 year for $80.

It’s important to know that you cannot use your Discover Pass because they’re not valid at USDA forest service trailheads. If you forget to buy a Northwest Pass and don’t have an America the Beautiful Pass, you can buy an annual Northwest Forest Pass at the General Store in Index.

READ: Is it worth buying an America the Beautiful Pass?

Lake Serene Trail Walkthrough

We’re going to walk you through the hike exactly as it was for us and with our photos, so you know what to expect:

1. Park + Display Pass

Hiker studying trailhead information board in Washington
Kristen reading the information and trail map

We arrived after lunch, parked and hung our America the Beautiful Pass on our mirror. After filling our day packs with snacks and topping up our water, we quickly used the vault toilets and read the trail information boards.

2. Logging Road

Hiking path covered in leaves and Sitka spruce trees
Gradual incline on the logging road

The first 1.6 miles of the hike was along a very gradually inclining logging road. It’s on private property but it’s also been partially converted to public trail, so it’s fine to use for hiking. We passed by tall trees and bushes, set a good pace and got our lungs working again.

3. Spur Trail To Bridal Veil Falls

Trail marker with spur path as hike splits to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene
The spur trail to Bridal Veil Falls is right at the fork

After 1.6 miles the trail splits very obviously at a brown sign with distances: the left fork is for Lake Serene and the right fork is for Bridal Veil Falls. We took the right fork and gained 800 ft in just 0.5 miles by climbing lots of steep and uneven steps, before reaching a small boardwalk loop.

4. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls Washington trickling down a rock face light flow in October
Here’s the waterfall flowing lightly in October

Bridal Veil Falls is a series of 4 waterfalls cascading down through Bridal Veil Creek from Lake Serene, before emptying into South Fork Skykomish River. We could only see Lower Falls and Middle Falls from the viewpoint on the boardwalk loop, but they both had vertical plunges of around 100 ft.

5. Back On The Main Trail

Hiker crossing a wooden bridge next to a creek in Washington
Kristen crossing Bridal Veil Creek

After descending 800 ft on the steep steps, we rejoined the main trail at the split and passed by old stone ruin which was once a miner’s cabin back in the early 1900’s. Next, we crossed Bridal Veil Creek on a long wooden bridge and passed by another small waterfall surrounded by maple leaf and sitka spruce trees.

6. Switchbacks

Long wooden staircase built into forest hiking path
Lots of steps and switchbacks leading to the summit

After the bridge it was essentially 2 miles solid of steep wooden stairs and switchbacks. We counted 23 switchbacks in total between the trail split and Lake Serene, so this was where our thighs and calves started to burn. There was a small window in which valley views opened up behind us but we just got our heads down and pushed on for the lake.

7. Lake Serene

Blue waters of Lake Serene with stunning reflection of rocks snow and clouds
We took this photo of the completely still Lake Serene from Lunch Rock

Once we finally summited the incline, we crossed a wooden bridge and saw a wooden sign stating directly ahead for lunch rock and right for valley view. So we started with lunch rock, grabbed some food and took on fluids, photographed the lake and stopped at valley view on the way back. Thick clouds and fog had rolled in so we benefitted from a cool eerie-looking lake but we couldn’t see any of the valley!

8. The Descent

Photo of Lake Serene in Washington reflection with rocks and snow
Close up of the glass-like reflection on Lake Serene with low hanging clouds

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we only stayed at the summit for 30 minutes before heading back down to the parking lot. We dropped back down the switchbacks carefully, passed the trail split and walked back down the logging road before it got dark.

READ: 50 amazing hikes in the US

Pros And Cons

Bridal Veil Falls in Washington through a gap between tree leaves and trunk with wooden steps
Wooden steps leading to the waterfall viewpoint


  • Leads to a waterfall, lake and mountain views
  • Challenging day hike perfect for intermediate hikers
  • Trail is mostly in forest and shaded from the sun
  • Reasonably good amount of parking


  • It can become extremely crowded in summer and on weekends
  • Steep gradient to the lake means it’s not suitable for beginners
  • Lake is often shrouded in thick clouds
  • No alternate parking options if the lot is full

Hiking Tips

Logs floating in the edges of Lake Serene in Washington
Logs floating close to Bridal Veil Creek

Here are our best quick tips for the Lake Serene hike:

  • Begin very early or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds on the trail
  • Hike in late spring or fall to avoid the summer rush
  • Robust shoes will help with gripping on slippery surfaces
  • No specialist gear required in good weather
  • Don’t forget your poles if you typically use them to hike
  • Micro spikes are essential for winter hikers
  • Can be bad for bugs in summer months so don’t forget repellant
  • Lake Serene is a dog friendly trail
  • Bring plenty of water and food for the summit
  • You can swim in Lake Serene
  • Check recent comments from hikers on All Trails

Do you use offline maps to track your hikes with any of the best hiking apps? We typically use All Trails to look at recent comments, then we use Gaia GPS offline maps navigation when we’re on trails with no service.

EXCLUSIVE: 20% GAIA GPS Premium discount

Where To Eat And Stay Nearby

Still see through water with reflection of rocks and trees
Perfectly still water and stunning reflections in the lake

FOOD: Gold Bar is the closest place to Lake Serene, and it has a good selection of quality places to eat, which works great if you want to grab a spot of lunch before or after hiking the trail.

Top rated eateries include:

HOTELS: You’ll have a more difficult job on your hands if you’re thinking about staying at a nearby hotel. Start with Sultan and Monroe because they’re the closest places to the trailhead.

Top rated hotels include:

Best Time To Hike Lake Serene Trail

Lush green trees at the summit of a popular hiking trail in Washington State
Emerald green trees flanking the edge of the lake

We think September and October are the best times to hike Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls to benefit from comfortable hiking conditions, fewer crowds, misty mornings and fall colors. But May is also an excellent month to hike because the waterfall will be most powerful.

Personally, we would avoid the busy summer months of July and August but the warmer weather (for swimming in the lake!) and longer days might appeal more to you. If you do visit between June and August, we recommend avoiding weekends and particularly holiday weekends if possible.

The Morgan Conclusion

Hike standing on a narrow broken wooden bridge taking photos with a camera
Mark taking photos of Lake Serene from a narrow wooden bridge

All Trails has the trail at 4.7/5 with over 9k+ ratings, and it’s hard for us to argue with those 9 thousand hikers. We liked that it was a relatively challenging mid-distance hike, and that it led to both a waterfall and glacial lake. Overall, we think it’s definitely worth it.

Hopefully you’ll hike on a clear day so you can soak up views over Lake Serene surrounded by the towering Mt Index behind. But even if you hike on a cloudy day like we did, you might get the same eerie and mysterious mist effect we had.

More From Washington

Want more Washington content? Head to our Washington Travel Guides to explore National Parks, popular day hikes and best things to do around Seattle.

We hope this guide to hiking Lake Serene Trail helps with planning your visit to Washington!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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