The leaves are changing, and the larches are out! It's the perfect time to check out the Heather and Maple Pass Loop.

This North Cascades gem is one of the most picturesque hikes in the entire Cascades. Adding to the allure is the fact that this hike will likely be inaccessible after Thanksgiving when heavy snows close the North Cascades Highway for the season.

The hike itself is a big 7-mile loop taking you over both Heather Pass and Maple Pass. Either direction you go will have magnificent views, though counter-clockwise brings a more gradual initial climb.

While the hike doesn't require any special gear, when snow is present it's a good idea to bring micro-spikes. It does get slippery, and there are some steeper sections. Also, be sure to check the weather forecast. Like most hikes with mountain views, this one is best served with a clear sky. There are an endless number of snow-capped peaks to enjoy!

Because of its popularity, you may want to think about checking this one out on a weekday. If you're going on a weekend, get here early to avoid the larger crowds.