TMBER'S PICKS: 5 Labor Day Hikes
Maybe it's the small changes you're seeing in the weather. Or perhaps the back-to-school doldrums in your house. The hard truth is that whether you keep a calendar on your wall or on your phone, for most of us, Labor Day weekend marks the inevitable shift from summer to fall, and it's – yikes – less than a week away. The good news is that hiking season is still in its prime, and now is the time to seize the moment and hit the trails. The beginnings of fall color, ripening wild berries, that low golden afternoon sunshine – all great reasons to pick up your pack, lace your boots, and lose yourself for an hour or a weekend in the magnificence of our great outdoors. To get you started, we've compiled this smokin' list of some of our favorite Labor Day hikes. What, you've already done all five? There are lots more to try, right here.
1. HANNEGAN PASS AND HANNEGAN PEAK
Think hiking season is over? Think again. This trail makes a strong case for the incredible beauty unique to a late summer hike. With little to no snow left on the ground, you can spend less time watching your feet, and more time taking in the views and wildflowers that surround you. This is a challenging hike, best for seasoned hikers or those in good physical condition. The elevation gain from Hannegan Pass to the summit of Hannegan Peak will most assuredly leave your lungs and legs burning, but the outstanding landscape is well worth the effort. God’s Country. The Promised Land. Paradise. Whatever you call it, you are bound to be awed by the beauty. Give yourself enough time at the summit to enjoy the vistas in every direction – challenge yourself and see if you can name all the peaks that surround you before you head back down.
Why go? Views. And more views. This trail is best experienced on a clear day. Make it a challenging day-hike, or turn it into a weekend trip and camp at Hannegan Campground. Read more here.
2. COLCHUCK LAKE
Sometimes there is great wisdom in following the crowd – and in the case of Colchuck Lake, reasons abound as to why this well-traveled trail is a popular destination. Situated at the gateway into the Enchantments, arguably some of the most beautiful country on this planet, the hike to Colchuck Lake is accessible to most every hiker. The trail winds through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, terminating at the pristine and spectacular turquoise waters of Colchuck Lake. Surrounded by Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Peak and Aasgard Pass, this lake lives up to the hype.
Why go? A varied trail, marked by views, log bridges and elevation gain, keeps interest high, and while challenging at times, can be accomplished by most hikers. And that lake at the end is an incredible thing of beauty. Read more here.
3. GOAT LAKE LOOP
In our opinion, the Goat Rocks Wilderness is some of the finest backcountry this side of the country has to offer, and late summer is its prime season. While the Goat Lake Loop trail can be completed as a day trip, we’re recommending you take advantage of the long weekend and linger to enjoy the outstanding scenery and wildlife in this area. Trek through wildflowers and alpine meadows, taking in views of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier along the way. It’s a wonderland out there.
Why go? Snow doesn’t melt back until late summer, which means that Goat Lake is only just now accessible. This is good country, an area ringed by the region’s big beauties: Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier. Read more here.
4. BARCLAY LAKE
Old growth forest and fairly level terrain ends in beautiful Barclay Lake, making this hike one for the whole family. Moss literally drips from old-growth trees, ensuring your kid’s imaginations will be spinning at full tilt. Plants thrive here; lush vegetation and ripe berries line the trail. This hike makes a great first-time backpacking trip too; the trail is short and flat enough that even young hikers can carry in their own packs to the camping sites around the lake. The lake temperature has warmed with the hot weather we’ve had this summer; don’t forget to bring your swimsuit!
Why go? Family-friendly, old-growth forest, a short-yet-sweet trail, and a fine swimming lake with views of Baring Mountain awaits at the end. Read more here.
5. RACHEL LAKE
If we were to choose a late-summer day-hike, Rachel Lake would be at the top of our list. It’s a tough trek, but we love a challenge, especially with such a worthy destination. Early on, the trail follows Box Canyon Creek, ensuring lush greenery along the way. The second half of the hike requires a shift down to a lower gear – let’s just say it gets rocky and steep. It’s all worth the effort, as Rachel Lake is a place you’ll want to put down roots, at least for the day.
Why go? A varied and steep trail keeps even the most seasoned hiker challenged and engaged. The deep blue of Rachel Lake rewards the effort, offering a great place to eat lunch, or cool down with a swim. Read more here.