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Golden Larch March in the North Cascades

Golden Larch March in the North Cascades

It’s an annual tradition in the Northwest: the golden larch march. Hikers, tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts flock to the mountains in early- to mid-October to see larches as their needles turn bright yellow in the autumn. Tove and I are among the many who head to the hills, traveling to the North Cascades to enjoy the golden larches.

Golden Larch March

Golden larches on the trail to Blue Lake

On our recent golden larch march, we tackled two hikes in the North Cascades. We first strolled to Lake Ann, and then we followed that up with a trek to Blue Lake. Here’s a quick breakdown of each hike:

Golden Larch March in the North Cascades

Golden larch march

Lake Ann

Lake Ann

Starting from the Rainy Pass Picnic Area (map), the hike to Lake Ann is just 3.7 miles round-trip with a 700-foot elevation gain. In other words, this is a hike for all ages and all experience levels. Start on the main trail and moderately climb for about 1.25 miles. You’ll run into a Y in the trail. The path to the left leads to Lake Ann (there is a sign), while the path to the right continues to the Heather-Maple Loop Pass hike.

You won’t encounter any golden larches until you branch off toward the lake, but you will cross some other beautiful fall colors. You can also hear and see plenty of pikas scurrying around along the way. As you hike to the lake, keep your eyes to the left. That’s where you’ll find the golden larches, and you’ll also see them on the hills around Lake Ann.

Golden larch march

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

Just four miles past the Lake Ann trailhead (traveling west to east), you’ll find the Blue Lake trailhead (map). The hike to Blue Lake is 4.4 miles with a 1,050-foot elevation gain. Since Blue Lake is higher in elevation (6,254 feet, compared to Lake Ann at 5,500 feet), you actually get to meander through golden larches on this hike – they’re not just visible in the distance.

Once you arrive at Blue Lake, there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy a snack. You can also follow different paths around the lake to gather different views of the golden larches (and possibly avoid some of the weekend crowds). It was actually snowing when Tove and I were on our most recent larch march, making the scene even more beautiful than usual.

Click here for a more in-depth post about golden larches at Blue Lake.

Golden larch march

Fall colors on the hike to Lake Ann

NOTE: People often ask when the larches turn golden in Washington. It’s nature, so there’s obviously no one answer. It was October 7th both times we headed to the North Cascades for the larch march. I’ve also read that October 10th is a good time to pin on your calendar. When it happens, larches don’t stay golden long. At the most, they’ll be at their peak for about a week.

For those of you unfamiliar with the North Cascades, it’s a long trek from Seattle. You can make the larch march a day trip, but expect more than six hours in the car. To help ease the travel, Tove and I have stayed at the Buffalo Run Inn in Marblemount (two hours from Seattle, and about an hour from the trails). There are a few other motels and inns around Highway 20, and there is also plenty of camping in the North Cascades.

Golden larch march

Golden larches around Lake Ann

The Pacific Northwest is a wonderful place to call home. It’s such a unique area, and it’s even more special for the larch march in October. It’s a flash of absolute autumn brilliance that everyone can enjoy with a little effort. We encourage you to not miss this awesome spectacle!

Have you ever headed out for the golden larch march in the North Cascades? How was your experience? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more great places to visit around the Emerald City!

Golden larch march

Blue Lake

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  1. Best Time to See Golden Larches in Washington | Seattle Bloggers - […] We’ve been to the North Cascades to see golden larches twice (click here for two great hikes to check …

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