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Church Mountain

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All congregants of nature are invited to attend this Church. But hallelujah, it's a tough calling! While the trail is built well, it switchbacks like there's no tomorrow. The scenery is heavenly, but with over 3700 vertical feet to climb there's a little hell to pay on the way. It's worth the sacrifice, though. From the old lookout site just beneath Church Mountain's impressive steeple-like summit, a promised land of North Cascades beauty abounds.

Start off easy enough on an old road turned delightful trail. But after an easy 0.5 mile of minimal elevation gain, ascending begins with a vengeance. At least the old-growth canopy makes prospects for overheating minimal. Occasional holes in the green cloak reveal the North Fork Nooksack River roaring below.

Traversing southern slopes, the lower half of this trail often melts out by late spring. By late summer however, it can be quite dry-pack plenty of water. At 2.5 miles, after seemingly endless climbing, the grade eases up and the forest cover thins. At 3 miles emerge into an open basin (elev. 4800 ft) beneath Church's spires. Meadows! Wildflowers! Look at them all - paintbrush, buttercup, columbine, violets, lousewort, saxifrage, stonecrop, cinquefoil, lupine, penstemon, lilies, asters, bistort, and valerian.

Soon the trail crosses Deer Horn Creek in a boggy orchid-strewn swale. Then it's back to business. In heather parklands and steep meadowy slopes, the trail works its way out of the basin. Be careful here, as the trail is subject to slumping. Making a long switchback, the trail enters a small rocky upper basin where snow often lingers into August.

Just beneath the craggy ridge crest, the trail heads west to angle under and up and over some rocky sections. Pass the ruins of a shed and an old precariously placed privy before making the final push to a 6100-foot knoll. Just beneath Church's summit spires (reserved for climbers and angels), this airy point (keep children, dogs, and the vertigo-inclined nearby) was once blessed with a fire lookout. The views, however, remain-and they're divine.

Look south to Shuksan, Baker and the Skyline Divide, the Twin Sisters, and all the way to Rainier; west to the San Juans; and east across the verdant and craggy High Divide. North it's Canyon Ridge, big beautiful British Columbia, and straight below, in a snowbound basin, the Kidney Lakes.
Driving Directions:

From Bellingham follow the Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542) east for 34 miles to the Glacier Public Service Center. Continue east for another 5.4 miles, turning left onto Forest Road 3040 (East Church Mountain Road). Follow FR 3040 for 2.7 miles to the road end and trailhead (elev. 2350 ft).

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 82 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Church Mountain — Feb 03, 2014 — puff
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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I felt like I should have brought a newspaper with the headline SEAHAWKS WIN SUPER BOWL! and taken a...
I felt like I should have brought a newspaper with the headline SEAHAWKS WIN SUPER BOWL! and taken a picture of it in the foreground to prove that I made it to the meadow in February. No snow to speak of until coming out of the forest and then there was a packed icy trail under 6 inches of new. The tracks stopped at the edge of the meadow as any sane person who wants to hike another day will do upon seeing the avalanche debris on the hillside above. I put on microspikes to come back and they definitely helped crossing the gullies.
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Church Mountain — Oct 20, 2013 — emdoublegee
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Long hike with a lot of elevation gain. There was a lot of water on the trail once you reach the me...
Long hike with a lot of elevation gain. There was a lot of water on the trail once you reach the meadow, and snow at the higher elevations. Still easy to follow, and to stay dry if you have waterproof hiking boots.

Awesome view at the top definitely makes up for the tough hike!
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Church Mountain — Sep 11, 2013 — Josh Bartman
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | Bugs
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The was a beautiful hike with a great view. Bring your camera. There is a few running streams whi...
The was a beautiful hike with a great view. Bring your camera.

There is a few running streams which were great for my dog to cool off in.

There were ripe berries but I wasn't sure which ones were ok to eat.

The road up was clear but a little rough for my 99 kia sephia to make it. I did bottom out once or twice.

The trail is clear and easy to follow with one or two down tree to climb over/around.

There were misquotes and biting flies; bring bug spray.

The second half of the hike is completely uncovered so bring sunscreen. I went on an 80 degree day. There are only a few small shaded spots after the mid point for me to let my dog cool off in.

I had a problem finding the turn off from SR-542 while driving from Bellingham. My GPS was saying the turn off was about 1/2 mile before it actually was. I kept on turing around and checking small unmarked roads. Don't do that. If you are having trouble just keep driving until you see a clearly marked road with a street sign that says, "Church Mountain." You can't miss it.
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Church Mountain — Aug 25, 2013 — leahv97
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: No water source
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This was a fantastic day hike! The weather was great, and the views at the top were stunning. It was...
This was a fantastic day hike! The weather was great, and the views at the top were stunning. It was a challenging hike, but definitely not too difficult. There were very few people, only 3 cars in the parking lot when we started. The fact that there were no bugs was nice, too. Would highly recommend!
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Church Mountain — Aug 21, 2013 — Frank
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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Beautiful day, only about 5 cars in the parking lot. Tough hike but completely worth it. No issues w...
Beautiful day, only about 5 cars in the parking lot. Tough hike but completely worth it. No issues with the trail, go out and do this hike asap! Took 2.5 hours going up, 1.5 hours down (started at noon got back to the car at 5)

Pics can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/
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Church Mnt.jpg
Towering trees on the way up to Church Mountain. Photo by Alain Towner.
WTA worked here!
2011, 2012
Location
Church Mountain (#671)
North Cascades -- Mount Baker Highway
Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain 3750 ft
Highest Point 6100 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Ridges/passes
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Mount Baker No. 13

Improve or add to this guidebook entry

Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerChurch Mountain
48.9123 -121.8578
  • Trail Work 2012
  • Trail Work 2011
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