Picture this: You’re driving on a winding road through the mountains. Your favorite music is on. Through the car windows, you can feel the comforting heat from the sun, but when you roll the windows down a little, the air is cool and crisp. Surrounding you is a colorful landscape of reds, yellows and oranges.
Welcome to Washington in the fall. Everyone raves about glorious West Coast summers, but true Pacific Northwesterners know that our autumns are just as (if not more) remarkable. From taking advantage of cooler but enjoyable temps to walking through fall foliage and stocking up on autumn treats, here’s how to get the most out of the season.
Hike, walk or drive to see fall colors
No matter your ability level (or the forecast), there are plenty of autumn landscapes to explore in Washington state. Anna Roth, hiking content manager for the Washington Trails Association, wants people to remember that low-country hikes, especially riverside hiking, can be just as colorful as hiking up a mountain.
“The color lasts longer on deciduous trees in the low country,” she says.
If you want to lace up your hiking boots and embark on a more strenuous journey, you have options. Head into the North Cascades in mid-October to see larches, deciduous pine trees with needles that turn gold before falling off. Popular larch-spotting hikes in this area include Cutthroat Lake and Pass, Easy Pass and Blue Lake. There’s also Larch Lake in the Central Cascades and Lake Ingalls in the Teanaway area near Cle Elum. The Paradise area of Mt. Rainier National Park is also known for its vibrant fall hues. (Remember, for many of these places you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass and/or a National Park Pass.)
If you’re hiking, keep in mind that fall hiking is quite different from summer hiking. While temperatures will be cooler everywhere, they’ll be even colder higher up in the mountains. Since the sun rises later and sets earlier, bring a flashlight or head lamp in case you underestimate how long the hike will take and get caught in the dark.