It's easy to forget that the lake is just 30 miles outside Everett: After a gentle two-mile climb to the top of the trail, hikers are greeted with breathtaking views and crisp mountain air.
Heather Lake's noticeable wildlife gives kids something to look forward to on the way up.
Cascades frogs swim in the shallows and small, round-eared animals called pikas can be heard, and sometimes seen, squeaking from their burrows.
The shores are circled with more than a half-mile of winding wooden walkways, leading the way for families to explore meadows filled with horse tails and giant boulders that create a perfect place for lunch.
This easy trail is a great warm-up for new hikers. It's more than four miles round trip, though, so families with small children should consider child carrier backpacks.
Dogs are welcome on this popular hike, too, but keep them on leashes unless they go in the water, which is safe (but cold!) for swimming.
Forestry officials caution that the water may not be safe to drink without a filter, so hikers are encouraged to bring water bottles.
Heather Lake is an ideal fall hike. The changing colors create a beautiful backdrop for a family outing and the trail typically gets snow later than neighboring hikes, forestry officials said.
The road to the trailhead is accessible year-round, although hikers may need showshoes during the snowy months and should be wary of avalanches, especially near the lake's southern shore.
Hikers should always be on the lookout for water and slippery rocks along the trail.
Contact a service center for trail conditions.
Northwest Forest Service passes are required for this hike and can be purchased online or at the Forest Service center in Verlot. Daily passes are $5, annual passes, $30.
Privies are available at the trailhead and near the lake.
Trail No. 701, Mountain-Loop Highway, outside Granite Falls
Round trip: 4.6 miles
Information and trail conditions: Verlot Public Service Center; 33515 Mountain Loop Highway, Granite Falls; 360-691-7791. Northwest Forest Service passes available at tinyurl.com/ForestPass.
Directions: Follow Mountain Loop Highway east from Granite Falls. After crossing the blue bridge, 1 mile past the Verlot Public Service Center, take the first right onto a gravel road marked "Mount Pilchuck Access." Drive about 1 1/2 miles to the trailhead.
Ashley Stewart: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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