If you are looking for a moderate, dog-friendly, fall hike, you must add Annette Lake Trail to your to-do list. Annette Lake Trail is about 7.5 miles round-trip, and just under 2,000 ft. of elevation gain, which will make your blood pump, but not so much that moving one foot in front of the other is the only thing you can think about. This trail is in great shape and is suitable for all ages, and you can bring your furry hiking companion.
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For the past couple of years, Mom and I (and Kristen when she can – she has been pregnant or busy with a newborn lately) like to hike Deer Park to Maiden Peak toward Obstruction Point in Olympic National Park in the fall. This hike is in our top three. It offers 360-degree views and the colors pop during the fall. It is absolutely gorgeous…BUT, rain, wind, and fog were in the forecast the weekend we planned to hike, which is not ideal for a ridge hike. I was literally checking the forecast up until 8:00 p.m. the night before seeing if it would clear up. It didn’t. Thankfully I planned a backup hike in case the weather did not turn for the better.
We prefer hiking on the Olympic side because the drive is so nice. There is no I-5 traffic, just peaceful, long stretches of road passing through small towns with a view of the mountains for most of the drive. Although we prefer the Olympics side, I have been itching to do more hikes on the Rainier/North Bend side and this is one of those.
I do need to point out that we are extremely fortunate to live smack dab in the middle of the Olympics and Rainier. Two hours, give or take, in either direction we have endless hiking trails at our fingertips.
But anyway, the weather was promising on this side, so we went for it.
My alarm clock was set for 4:30 a.m., and I was on the road picking up my mom at 5:30 a.m. The drive to Annette Lake Trail was nice. I-5 had zero traffic in the early morning on Saturday. We arrived at the trailhead at 7:30 a.m. and there were only about five other cars there.
**WARNING – As soon as you cross the small bridge before the trailhead parking lot, there is a HUGE, deep pothole right where the pavement ends. Stay to the left where it isn’t so deep to avoid the hole as much as possible. The rest of the dirt road (only .4 miles) has some serious potholes, so drive slow if you like your car at all.
We geared up quickly and set off for the trail at 7:34 a.m. The beginning of the trail starts out in a lush forest and quickly comes to a beautiful, raging creek that has a large bridge crossing over it. The trail continues through a very PNW-feeling trail. Very green and earthy. After a little over a mile, the trail begins getting steeper which is alleviated by switchbacks. At this point, it was time to ditch a layer as we worked up a sweat. The trial was fun to navigate with a variety of textures on the ground. Root systems, rock steps, mini boulder fields, soft dirt, and small waterfalls.
Continuing on, we started to get peek-a-boos of the surrounding mountains littered in fall foliage. The recent snow added a soft glow reminding us that winter is just around the corner. As we gained elevation the views got even better and the neighboring mountains revealed more of themselves as the morning shadow unveiled even more fall colors. By the time you start getting views, the hard part of the elevation gain is mostly over making it that more enjoyable.
If you enjoy mushrooms, this is the time to hike! The trail was covered in all sorts of mushrooms. I don’t know the names of them, but we saw white, yellow, brown, red ones with a variety of textures growing.
Before we knew it, we were at Annette Lake! Annette Lake’s turquoise waters are serenely nestled in a bowl created by mountain peaks and alpine trees. We had the lake to ourselves when we arrived, allowing us first dibs on our lunch spot. We scouted the trails around the lake coming across some campsites, but ultimately, we landed on a spot looking out at the lake with a big log to learn on and use as our table.
It was chillier once we got to the lake so we happily put on our feather jackets and dry beanies while we ate lunch. For lunch, we sipped on Trader Joe’s instant coffee as we prepared Ready Wise Sweet Potato Curry. We have not tried this dehydrated meal and were pretty excited about it… it was nasty. We both are not picky eaters, but this was really bad. One bite and we were done. Bindi wouldn’t even touch it. Thankfully we were not starving and had other snacks to curb our appetites (jerky, protein bars, and Milano cookies). We took our time eating and enjoying the lake before packing up for the descent. By this time (about 11:00 a.m.), hikers were arriving at the lake left and right.
Check out my blog post on planning for a hardy trail meal, snacks, & more!
We were stopping at least every minute for hikers to pass by. We also passed a lot of furry friends, many of whom were off-leash. My one gripe about this hike was the amount of off-leash dogs. I’ve read mixed reviews that this is an off-leash trail, so I am not sure if it actually is but it would be nice if more dog courtesy was shown. Bindi loves other dogs, but when she is on leash and other dogs come running up to her getting in her face, it is extremely overwhelming for her (and me). There was one point where I had to scoop her up as a huge dog came barreling down the trail straight for her while barking. I’m glad that it is a dog-friendly trail, but I wish people could try a bit harder to make sure that everyone can enjoy it without being approached by unleashed dogs having no idea if they are friendly or not. Also, please pick up your dog’s doo-doo and don’t leave poop bags on the trail.
The trip down took us about 2.5 hours (half an hour longer than our way up because of the number of times we had to stop for other hikers). The parking lot is big and was overflowing when we returned. So if you plan to hike Annette Lake Trail, get there EARLY.
On our way home, we stopped by Huxdotter Coffee in North Bend. We found this gem of a coffee shop on our way from hiking Mount Si a few months ago and they make delicious coffee! Also, the shop is super cute with an incredible view of the mountains..so definitely check it out. All in all, this was a great day and a lovely hike. I would say the hike itself to Annette Lake was a lot more rewarding than the destination.