Hike Highlight: Green Lake

I believe that one of the best gifts winter has to offer is stillness and silence, and in that deep calm there is renewal for the soul. Unfortunately this offering is often drowned out amid holiday frenzy, so if you want to find it, you have to go looking for it.

If peace and solitude are what you need, and you have a full day to go after it, I recommend a winter hike to Green Lake in Mt. Rainier National Park. All told, this is almost a 10-mile hike roundtrip. The first 3 miles are on the gentle Carbon River Road, an old road that is closed to vehicles and which is one of my go-to places for hiking. I love walking through this old growth forest with its towering ancient trees that wear moss like shawls. This place is rare and special. The Carbon River Rainforest is the only inland temperate rainforest of its kind–and it has an incredible energy. If you pay attention, you can feel it breathing.

About 3 miles in you will see the trailhead to Green Lake. This is where things start to head upward. You gain nearly 1500 feet over 1.8 miles, and you’ll probably feel it. But there are so many rewards. You are surrounded by the rainforest’s signature Douglas firs, and as you climb those begin to transition into hemlocks. You will pass the beautiful Ranger Falls waterfall. And as you continue to climb up to the lake, you can feel silence begin to settle in around you.

The day we went there was a dusting of fresh snow over everything, which added an additional element of magic. At the lake we poured ourselves steaming cups of cocoa from a thermos in our pack and sat back to soak in the stillness of a pristine winter lake, toasting everything about winter that is slow, soft, and kind.

To get to the trailhead: Tell Siri to take you to Carbonado, and then follow the signs for the Carbon River. You will cross a terrifying one lane bridge and about a half a mile later (the location of the maker below), go left at the fork and drive another 8 miles to the end of the road. There is a small parking lot and rustic restrooms are available if you need them. You’ll need a National Parks Pass.