Golden Larches at Blue Lake

Larches are like the holy grail to northwestern hikers; these trees drop their needles in the fall and grow them back in June. Before they come down, the needles turn a brilliant shade of golden yellow. Sadly, the display only lasts about a week.

Brilliant golden alpine larches

Alpine Larches near Washington Pass

I camped at Diablo Lake on Saturday to see the larches, then got up the next morning and set out for Washington Pass. Blue Lake’s trailhead is just before the pass, a small flat spot in the woods beneath Liberty Bell and the Early Winters Spires. The trail goes up, up, and away (but not very steeply) through a dense forest, eventually coming into a meadow-like area where the trees are more sparse, but never really vanish. As the trees thin out, the views become more and more dramatic.

Brilliant golden alpine larches

Alpine Larches near Washington Pass

You may have noticed the snow in these pictures; there’s a reason two of the peaks in these photos are called Early Winters Spires. Yellow larch needles and snow tend to come at about the same time.

Larch needles glowing in the sun

Back-lit needles shimmering in the autumn sun

The trail ends at the lake, but a better view is waiting at the top of a little knoll beside the water.

Ice forming on the lake surface, with larches and other trees in the background

Blue Lake is beginning to freeze over

The granite peaks behind Blue Lake

Liberty Bell and the Early Winters Spires

It’s no wonder I love the North Cascades. 🙂

Here’s one last photo, from camp. I stayed at Colonial Creek CG; it’s a nice but often crowded campground on a lovely glacial lake. I set up under a maple tree for warmth, and got a few evening and night pictures.

Diablo Lake, the Big Dipper, and tail lights

The Big Dipper

A car drove by as I shot the last photo that night, its tail lights leaving their impression and reflecting in the water below.


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