There are many lists of the “Best Places in the USA” to see fall colors. A typical list consists of 20 ultimate destinations with no mention of the Cascade Range. This is truly wonderful as it means more blueberries for the bears and us without busloads of tourists. Despite capturing many beautiful images of colorful deciduous forests in the Northeast and aspens in the Rockies, I have not found a good enough reason to miss our spectacular fall color in the North Cascades.
In my experience, the prime colors of autumn start in the Alaskan arctic around late August and rush south with the season towards the Cascades. The variety and intensity of colors in Cascadia rate super high on the splendor scale. Fortunately, with many alpine trails through meadows and wide-open spaces, there are great wilderness options for hiking and camping. Ridges and meadows are aglow in crimson, orange, and gold with a touch of remaining greens in front of towering peaks mantled with the blue ice of glaciers. Nothing compares to our majestic North Cascade mountains in this regard.
Each fall, we seek beautiful high country trails lined with the glowing red foliage of wild blueberries, orange Mountain Ash and golden Alpine Larch exploding into peak color. To top it off, it’s not unusual to get a dusting of snow in late fall, adding an ideal icing on the cake! These are the colors of a photographer’s dream. One can enjoy hiking vigorously without sweating or swatting mosquitoes and the variety of mushrooms is impressive.
Usually, late August through early October is the best time to visit for fall color, although the timing and quality are different each year. Every fall the days become shorter, and the rewards of hiking grow even greater. Rain or shine, it’s always on the top of my list.
Brett Baunton is a photographer who is enthusiastic about wilderness exploration and environmental advocacy. With photo credits ranging from National Geographic to National Parks his latest passion project is advocating for Wild and Scenic protection of the Nooksack River on Instagram @wildnooksack. www.brettbaunton.com