A larch in front of other larches

Looking for larches

Move over, aspens. There’s a new fall tree in town.

This weekend, Cobalt and I went on an epic hike in search of larches, trees I had never heard about until a few weeks ago. These needley trees look like your typical evergreens during the summer, but then in the fall the needles turn yellow and fall off, like your typical deciduous trees. So cool!

In addition, it’s been two years since Cobalt and I have lived in Colorado, and we missed our fall tradition of seeing the glorious aspens turn yellow against the bright blue Colorado sky.

So when we found out that the Pacific Northwest has larches, we knew we had to go find them.

It’s not exactly easy. Larches in the state of Washington live at high elevation (~5,000 ft) in the northern part of the Cascade mountain range. So we had about a three-hour drive to wiggle northeast to the Cascades and then up.

But it turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive. To get to the Cascades, we drove through tunnels of orange and yellow trees that were shrouded in fog. Perfect for people who love fall and Halloween. Then as we climbed into the mountains, the sun came out and we were surrounded by outstanding views of the craggy mountains in this mountain range. Seriously, it was jaw-dropping.

My co-worker had recommended that we do the Cutthroat Pass trail, because it would definitely get us high enough to see larches (the trailhead is about 4,000 feet), and it would possibly be less crowded than other popular hikes in the area. The weather was too perfect though, so I think half of the state of Washington had the same idea we did.

Anyway, the trail was great! It was coated in snow, which ranged from a little dusting at the beginning to more prominent snow as we climbed. But the sun was out, so we weren’t too cold. We had INCREDIBLE views of the surrounding mountains, and we started to see larches nestled on them as the trail went on. Then suddenly, at about 6,000 feet, we found ourselves surrounded by these beautiful turning-yellow trees…. and all the other humans who had come out to find them.

We found them!!!
Cobalt admiring the view

Cobalt and I wandered around the larches for a while, taking pictures and getting to know them.

Getting up close and personal with a larch….

Their needles are thinner than those of other needled trees I’ve encountered, so they felt feathery and soft. Their softness and the way they were organized on the branches made the branches look like yellow pipe cleaners jutting out of the trunks. For some reason, the twisty nature of the larch branches made me think of skeletons. Not sure why.

Similar to other deciduous trees, each larch needle turns yellow in its own time. It makes for a gorgeous mix of yellow and green on any given tree.
Looks spiky but soooo soft…

After meandering through larches and humans, we found a large rock in the sun and decided to stop for lunch. We enjoyed our excellent views of the larches and the light breeze that swept across the area while we munched on carrots and cheese.

Also part of the lunch view: This neat mushroom!

Then it was time to head back down. :(

These little puffs caught my eye as we headed back down. I like that you can see the larches in the background.

These trees are magical. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again next year — or maybe next week. I miss them already.

Leaving you with some mushrooms and a baby tree!

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