Hikers enjoy the view at Lake Serene with the cliffs of Mount Index towering above. (Photo courtesy of Forterra)

Editorial: A chance to protect a ‘jewel’ of Lake Serene hike

By The Herald Editorial Board

One of Snohomish County’s and — by the looks of the parking lot on some weekends — the state’s most popular trails could be closed for eight months, beginning in early September and extending into July, well into next year’s prime hiking season.

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed temporarily closing the trail to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, off U.S. 2 near Index. Weyerhaeuser owns property surrounding the Forest Service-managed public lands on which the trail is built as well as property that a short span of the trail crosses. While the logging would happen on private land, the Forest Service believes the logging and truck traffic near the trail and trailhead poses a safety risk to the public, making the temporary closure necessary.

One silver lining to the closure, the Forest Service would perform maintenance at the trailhead on the parking area and outhouses. Additionally, Weyerhaeuser has promised to restore the section of trail that crosses its property once logging is complete.

The trail, popular with families, is an eight-mile round trip that starts in deciduous forest along the old logging road. The Washington Trails Association advises hikers to take a loop first up a steep trail and stairs to Bridal Veil Falls before continuing on to Lake Serene through a dense conifer forest to the lake and its view of Mount Index’s lakeside snowfields and cliffs towering 3,000 feet above.

Included in Ira Spring’s and Harvey Manning’s “100 Classic Hikes in Washington,” Spring describes the lake as “a jewel of the first order.” Spring, Manning wrote, “could sit there fascinated for an hour or two or three photographing the reflection of Mount Index in the blue waters,” though Manning, himself, felt hemmed in and unable to roam because of the cliffs.

While the logging will occur on private property, there’s still an opportunity for public comment to the Forest Service regarding the trail closure until Aug. 28.

The Washington Trails Association — which works to protect trails and public lands, organizes maintenance projects by volunteers and promotes hiking — is asking hikers and others to write to the Forest Service with four recommendations:

Reduce the closure to Oct. 2 through March 31, falling outside the prime hiking season. The trail generally is accessible mid-June to mid-October.

Allow trail and trailhead access during weekends and holidays during the closure.

Ensure that following the logging the logging road bed, which will be used as the main access on to Weyerhaeuser’s land, will be restored.

Avoid, as much as possible, any physical or visual impacts to the trail. Forest Service land provides a buffer between the trail and Weyerhaeuser land, but some sections of the trail are just a few hundred yards from the boundary.

While the Forest Service has a duty to reduce the risks to public safety posed by logging, it should attempt to preserve as much public access as possible. As Weyerhaeuser is giving Forterra until the end of October to raise funds for a purchase, a Sept. 2 closure of the trail seems unnecessary.

One other alternative is possible.

Weyerhaeuser has offered the land for sale, and Forterra, formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy, is attempting to raise $275,000 by Oct. 30 to purchase the property. Fundraising for the Lake Serene trail is part of Forterra’s larger protection plans for the Great Northern Corridor, that follows U.S. 2 and the Great Northern Railroad from Everett to Wenatchee, including the Upper Skykomish portion that extends 45 miles from Sultan to Stevens Pass.

If Forterra is successful it would provide even greater and lasting protection for one of the state’s classic hikes to that first-order jewel in the Great Northern Corridor’s crown.

Comment on closure

To comment on the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed closure of the Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls trail, go to tinyurl.com/USFScommentSerene or mail to Joe Neal, Skykomish District Ranger, P.O. Box 305, Skykomish, WA 98288. Deadline is Aug. 28.

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