South Boundary Loop
Today we embark upon a “Do As Much As You Want” hike. There are several turn-offs along this loop hike which will give you the opportunity to shorten the hike…wimp. The full hike may take a little over three hours and have an elevation gain of about seven hundred feet.
Start at the Cascade Lake parking lot. Follow the trail north, counter-clockwise around the lake. Travel through ancient cedar trees and cross the small wooden bridge over Moran Creek, breeding ground for the Kokanee salmon. At the north end of the lake you’ll pass one of the more popular swimming sites in the park. Known as “the tree” this grizzled old evergreen which hangs out over the lake is frequently decorated with youths preparing to swing on the rope or climbing out onto a limb to jump into the lake. A word of caution…the water level varies so check it to be sure it is deep enough before you make the leap.
The trail wanders up and down along moss-covered granite outcrops and through clumps of salal (a low shrub with dark blue, marginally edible berries) until it reaches a long, wood bridge. Lilly-pads decorate the lagoon on your right while the view to your left shows the expanse of the lake.
Exiting from the bridge you’ll enter a shadowed forest. Here the trail turns south. Peek-a-boo views of the lake pop-up until you reach the south-end of the lake and the junction to Sunrise Rock.
If you’ve sprained an ankle, forgotten your meds or are simply willing to admit to being a wimp here is your first opportunity to shorten this hike. Continue straight along the trail through the camp-sites to finish the loop around Cascade Lake.
Follow the sign to Sunrise Rock which sends you to the right away from the lake. After a short distance the trail dead-ends at the south boundary where you head left toward Cascade Falls. As you hike this trail keep watch for the old, stone boundary markers. You’ll find them hiding like Easter eggs along either side of the trail until it veers away from the edge of the park.
When the trail crosses the county road turn right and cross the park’s south entrance bridge. On your left just past the bridge you will see a short, steep incline. Follow the narrow path which should be marked with a sign identifying it as the Southeast Boundary Trail.
The county road provides you with another opportunity to cut short the hike and skip some of the elevation gain. You can head left to follow the county road back to the parking lot. Or you can continue across the road and follow the signs for Cascade Falls. Hike uphill to the trailhead and parking lot for the falls. Across Mount Constitution Road you’ll find a tiny “trail” sign marking the trail back to Cascade Lake.
Regardless of your decision, when you reach them, take a few minutes to view the falls. Be warned, however, there is a time vortex at the falls. What seems like a few moments may turn into an hour as the cascade of water can hypnotize just about anyone…plus there are about a million angles from which to shoot a good photo of the falls.
Continuing up the hill you’ll find the trail has a fair amount of up and down … mostly up. Horse trail-rides and mountain bikers use this trail frequently so keep an eye out for road apples and an ear for bicycles racing down the hill.
The trail becomes the service road where a sharp left turn will take you through the “picnic table graveyard” to Mount Constitution Road and your last opportunity to bail on the hike. Don’t! You are almost there. Continue straight along the fire road as it heads northwest toward Mount Pickett. When the road appears to dead-end turn left to reach Mountain Lake where you’ll make another left to arrive at the dam and a nice place for a break.
Soak the tootsies; take a swim if you dare; sit on a log; or sit in the sunny clearing before you travel downhill along the spillway from the dam. You won’t need to but may feel like ducking under the trunk of a large tree trunk which leans across the trail. If you hear a staccato drumming look for our pileated woodpecker friends. You’ll need to have your camera ready and be quick if you wish to catch a shot of these shy birds with their red, pterodactyl-like heads.
This path ends right after you cross a sturdy, wood bridge over Cascade Creek. Look left to see the “picnic table graveyard” but turn right to travel along the fire road. A small path to the left will appear a very short distance down the road. Look closely as the trail marker may still be resting on the ground. Apparently he snow and wind of a winter storm last year wore out the poor thing. Here you have to decide whether to continue straight to Mount Constitution Road or go left to follow the creek to the top of Cascade Falls.
If you decide to travel along the creek the first right-hand trail you pass will take you to the trailhead and parking lot for the falls. If you’d like to take a photo of the falls from the top continue downhill. There is a small knob which hangs out over the falls and is nearly perfect for a down-angle shot. Access to the bottom of the falls is just a short distance further down the hill. After filling your camera’s memory card travel up hill toward the parking lot. To avoid retracing your steps you can follow the wide uphill trail to the left. It provides a more direct path to the trailhead.
Our trail picks up across Mt. Constitution Road from the parking lot. Follow a small “trail” sign marking the trail. This path will wind its way up and down and around several camping sites and through a picnic area until it reaches the parking lot at Cascade Lake.
Congratulations. You’ve completed the hike. If you’d like to hike your own trails call us here at T Williams Realty. We’ll help you to find your very own “mini-park”.