We began our trek up to Lake Serene on 11/24/13 around 10:45am. A little bit of a late start, but it can be hard to wake up early on a Sunday morning! The beginning of the trail meandered slowly upwards through the forest, passing over a few small creeks and occasionally gave us glimpses of a majestic mountain peak (Mt. Index?) above. It was very quiet morning, but we did hear a loud CRACK and the sound of some sort of debris falling. That definitely woke me up. We didn’t see any of the aftermath of that event, but assume it was ice/snow breaking off in the mountain above. It was becoming a sunny day, so perhaps the warming temperatures loosened some ice/snow. After about 1.5 miles we reached the primary junction: left 2 miles to Lake Serene, or right 0.5 miles to Bridal Veil Falls. We knew we were limited on daylight so we decided to go to Lake Serene first, since that was the main objective of the trip.
We continued along the forested path, accompanied by the roar of Bridal Veil Falls. We crossed over the falls on a well built wooden bridge and eventually came to a smaller waterfall. It was mostly dry but partially frozen over so there were some pretty icicles to observe. As we were admiring the view we heard another loud CRACK, this time much closer, and quickly turned away as some ice/snow tumbled down the rocks on the falls. Late morning is definitely the time to hear the mountain waking up!
I would describe the rest of the trail as rocky and full of stairs, so it was definitely a workout. Trees were the main view along the trail, but every now and then we’d reach a stretch of trail with a clearing. The open mountain views gave me a good excuse to take breaks along the way!
The last section of the trail was very icy and partly covered by snow. We ran into a couple people who had microspikes or other forms of shoe traction devices, and were a little jealous. Still, we managed to get past those areas by choosing our footing carefully.
After what felt like much longer than 2 miles, we reached Lake Serene! We found a nice area next to the lake to have a snack and take in the awesome views. The lake was partially frozen over and the opposite end of the lake had accumulated a lot of snow. My favorite part of the lake was hearing the loud BOOM of snow/ice falling down the sheer cliffs across the lake. This must be a very large lake, or very high cliffs, or both, because there was a sound delay. You would see some snow/ice fall down part of the cliff (it looked like a small misting of snow, just trickling down), and then hear the huge BOOM a second or two later. The sound seemed so much louder than it should be based on how much snow appeared to have loosened. It just goes to show how huge the scale of this place must be!
We left the lake around 1:30pm. The descent was much easier, except for the icy section at the top. We had to be very careful with our footing. Around 3:30 we made it back to the junction with Bridal Veil Falls and decided to make the quick 0.5 mile trip up to check it out. This section of the trail can also be described as very rocky and full of stairs, but again it was totally worth it. The viewing area of Bridal Veil falls brings you right up to the falls. In the spring you would probably need a very good rain jacket for the spray. There is also a beautiful open view of the mountains. Waterfall + mountain views = one of the better places to hang out.
We arrived back at the trail head at 4:45pm. The trip took us a little longer than we thought it would, although we did spend a lot of time at each destination. It was almost dark we when got back, so we were glad we had flashlights in our packs! We weren’t the last people to leave – there were at least 10 cars still at the trail head, so hopefully everyone else up there brought flashlights too.
Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. It was strenuous and I was sore the next day, but the beautiful scenery throughout the entire journey made it worth the effort.