Mount Baring Peaks through the mist above Barclay Lake. (Brandon Fralic / For The Herald)

2 great day hikes conveniently located near a brewery

By Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood

Special to The Herald

A favorite ritual for many hikers, the post-trail beer is something residents of the Pacific Northwest might take for granted. We Washingtonians in particular are spoiled with some of the best trails and ales in the country. Here’s a pairing of two easy day hikes — just a short drive from a family-operated brewery — right here in Snohomish County.

Barclay Lake

Cool down this summer with an easy backpacking trip to Barclay Lake. Located north of Baring, just 4 miles off U.S. 2, Barclay Lake offers a taste of wilderness for minimal effort.

Perhaps this explains its popularity. Summer weekends are buzzing with beginner backpackers and casual day hikers. On a recent July weekend, we counted no less than four separate dad-and-kid camps, along with a Boy Scout troop, a dog or two and various other groups.

Yet despite its popularity and ease of access, Barclay Lake can be surprisingly peaceful. Campsites are large and spread out, so noisy neighbors aren’t a worry. The only sounds we heard overnight were Barclay’s resident frog population and the drizzle of rain upon our tent — typical tunes in a place that receives up to 200 inches of annual precipitation.

Hike here early in the morning, during weekdays, and when the skies are too cloudy for views from nearby Heybrook Lookout. Or come for sunset, when Baring Mountain — towering over the lake at 6,125 feet — is illuminated by alpenglow.

The trail itself follows Barclay Creek for 2.2 miles, rolling rather gently with just 500 feet of gain. You’ll pass big trees and stumps along this wide, well-maintained path, beneath forest cover all the while.

Getting there: Drive east on U.S. 2 past Baring. Near milepost 41, head left on 635th Place NE. Keep left on Forest Road 6034. The trailhead is at the road’s end in 4 miles. Northwest Forest Pass required.

Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene

Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls are classic Washington hiking destinations. It’s no wonder. Due to their convenient trailhead located just 0.3-mile off U.S. 2 — and the irresistible appeal of Instagram-ready cascades paired with picturesque Mount Index soaring high above Serene — the parking lot is guaranteed to be overflowing by 10 a.m. on summer Saturdays.

Hike in 1.7 miles along an old forest road to a signed junction. Bear right to climb the half-mile to Bridal Veil Falls, which drops 205 feet, draping the sheer dark cliffs in what looks like, well, a bridal veil. Returning to the junction, call it a day after the falls or continue up a series of steep switchbacks to Lake Serene for an 8.2-mile round trip hike with 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

This trail requires sturdy footwear, as it is riddled with roots and sharp rocks. Once you reach Serene, it’s photo-and-lunchtime. Mount Index stands proudly overhead, just shy of 6,000 feet high. Enjoy the views, then return to the trailhead for some Index-inspired brews.

Getting there: Drive east on U.S. 2 from Monroe. About 21 miles east of Monroe, turn right onto graveled Mount Index Road (FR 6020). Continue 0.3 miles on FR 6020. The trailhead parking is just ahead to the right, signed for Lake Serene. Northwest Forest Pass Required.

Mt. Index Brewery &Distillery

There’s a large white sign with simple block letters reading, “NOW WITH BEER ON TAP” in the window of Mt. Index Brewery and Distillery. Located just off U.S. 2, eight miles east of Gold Bar, you might easily miss the chalet-style taproom, but it makes for an ideal spot to grab a post-hike pint. The brewery is located around the corner on the backside of the building. Inside, Owner/Brewmaster Charles Tucker offers a rotating selection of ales.

The cozy, wood-paneled taproom invites you to pull up a chair, relax with your brew of choice and marvel at the dozens of craft beer six-pack holders lining the walls. Or head for the outdoor seating on a raised deck out back. On a clear day, views of Mount Index’s craggy peaks rise from behind the brewery. Friendly resident Black Cat may even join you for a welcomed scratch under the chin, stretching out on a picnic table to soak up the sun. The brewery doesn’t offer a food menu yet, but there is complimentary soup on Sundays, homemade by Tucker’s mother.

When we stopped in, the taplist included a Bavarian Wheat, Ginger Beer, and a Barrel Aged Blueberry Abbey Ale. The Ginger Beer is a taproom favorite, with a refreshing bite of citrusy spice sure to perk up even the weariest of hikers. Aged in bourbon and rum barrels, the Blueberry Abbey Ale was an indulgence, coming in at 14 percent ABV. Big whiskey, and warm nutty rum flavors complimented the wine-like aromas of blueberry and hibiscus.

Out front, the distillery tasting room offers visitors the chance to sample (and purchase) a few of Mt. Index’s award-winning spirits. The distillery took home first place for their Black Cat Coffee liqueur and second for their Wild Sky Pot Still gin in Sip Northwest’s Best of the Northwest 2015.

Getting there: Mt. Index Brewery &Distillery is located less than a mile from the Lake Serene Trailhead. Follow signs for Index, turning north on Index-Galena Road from U.S. 2, where the brewery will be immediately on your left.

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