Fall in love with fall in Washington state.
The Sawtooth Lakes offer moderate hikes to see larch trees less than an hour from Alta Lake State Park.
Here’s the info on autumn hiking and camping!
The northeastern United States gets a lot of love when it comes to fall colors, but we proudly hold our own here in Washington state.
The Pacific Northwest is known for dramatic seasonal shifts, and many locals say autumn is the most wonderful time of the year.
Fall in Washington can come and go before you know it. There are a few weeks left to enjoy it, so get out there with this handy guide!
Maybe you’ve heard of larches, and maybe you haven't. (Spoiler alert: they are not a type of bird.) Unique to the Northwest (particularly to central Washington), these deciduous conifers turn greenish gold, then bright orange, then burnt orange – almost pink – in September and October. The trees then drop their needles for winter.
Maybe you’re hoping to walk among these golden beauties, but you’ve heard they can only be reached by monster hikes - like the Enchantments.
Not true! You don't have to be an extreme recreationist to see these fall colors.
Central Washington has larch hikes of all sizes. And while you’ll have many lodging options, we (of course) recommend camping at one of our spectacular state parks.
Check out our recommendations for looking at lovely larch landscapes:
Camp at Lake Easton and choose from several larch hikes near Cle Elum or Blewett Pass, including this hike to Ingalls Pass.
Please note, the hikes mentioned here sit on lands that are not owned or managed by State Parks. So, for your own safety and enjoyment, make sure to plan in advance, research trail rules and pass requirements, conditions, gear needed and Leave No Trace principles!
- Sawtooth Lakes (Upper Eagle Lake or Horsehead Pass – moderate/strenuous)
- Camp at Alta Lake State Park, which has amazing fall colors of its own.
- Larch Lake, Lake Julius/Lake Ethel, or Carne Mountain (Strenuous)
- Camp at Lake Wenatchee State Park, and don’t miss the colors on the park’s north side.
- Heather/Maple Pass Loop or Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass (moderate)
- Swauk Discovery Trail (easy), Tronsen Ridge/Blewett Pass (easy to moderate), Lake Ingalls (strenuous)
- Lake Clara (easy to moderate)
The White River area near Lake Wenatchee offers miles of flaming trees and red huckleberry bushes on easy to strenuous hikes.
Find spectacular fall colors at these state parks, where you can stay in a campground, cabin or yurt:
Wallace Falls State Park – Walk up the three-tiered Wallace Falls for dramatic season change!
Beacon Rock State Park – Our staff recommends the park’s equestrian trails for the best fall foliage.
October is our favorite color, and it won’t last long. Try to get out and experience it while you can.
But no worries if you can’t make it this year! The great thing about seasons is they’re annual, so autumn will come around again next year.
Tuck this cheat sheet away and use it to plan September/October 2023!
Parting shot: The Enchantments thru-hike is a classic larch march. At 19 miles and 5,000 feet of hard-scrabble elevation gain, you’ll want a comfy campsite at Lake Wenatchee or Wenatchee Confluence before and after this feat!
All photos by Meryl Lassen