Grand Larchery: Hiking the Golden lakes Loop

Sure, the East Coast is famous for it’s fall colors, and yes, those hardwood forests are breathtaking. The Rocky Mountains are  also renowned for stunning display of aspens at this time of the year. But neither color show exceeds the splendor of the high altitude larch forests of the eastern slopes of the North Cascades.

Larch forests are scattered among the high places of the range. The Enchantment Lakes are justifiably famous among larch lovers – but access is a ticklish business, with a tightly controlled permit system that requires  planning nearly a year in advance.  But there is another larch wonderland that requires no permit hoops to jump through, and as an added bonus, offers miles and miles of trails, delightful lakeside camping and solitude. The Golden Lakes are aptly named – this is extraordinary country for larch devotees.

Located west of  Twisp, WA., the Golden Lakes Loop is a backpacker’s dream. The trail system is extensive and easy (it’s a multi-use area, which means that it’s open to mountain bikes and motorcycles). On a recent seven day backpack trip, we encountered a total of four motorcycles and a half dozen bikes. One fellow hiker. Generally speaking, this is a place where you can find yourself all alone, free to contemplate the splendid colors of Autumn.

Photographs by John D’Onofrio


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