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Cultus Mountain--Mt Vernon area

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Cultus Mountain--Mt Vernon area — Nov 23, 2008 — whitebark
Day hike
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Cultus Mountain is a 3900' ridge just east of Mount Vernon. I first read about hiking Cultus in my a...
Cultus Mountain is a 3900' ridge just east of Mount Vernon. I first read about hiking Cultus in my aging, dog-eared copy of Footsore 3, published 1983. The sunny weather on Sunday seemed perfect for a exploratory visit, so armed with this very out of date information, a few buddies (victims) and I drove out there to have a look.

The driving instruction provide by Footsore III are still spot-on accurate. Follow SR 9 north to the town of Clear Lake, go east on Old Day Creek Road, then south on Janicke Road to the start of the logging road. We noticed that the gate was open (for the benefit of firewood cutters, so a sign said), and were thus able to drive a couple miles up the mountainside until it felt like time to start walking. There were a few ATVs and dirt bikes roaming about, so we were glad to arrive at a major and firmly gated spur road at about 1700'. It promised some motor-free pedestrian pleasure.

We followed that spur upwards toward Mundt Mountain, a high point north of Cultus Mountain. Recent clearcutting had left huge swaths of the hillside bare...ugly for sure, but we welcomed the sun and views, which were spectacular towards the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. The sun was so hot and bright that it was comfortable to hike in a T-shirt.

The road eventually ended in a slash-covered clearcut. My Garmin GPS indicated another road just a little ways above, so we scrambled up through the brush, and sure enough there was the road and an even better view at this elevation of 3000'. Here was a perfect sunny lunch spot with a fine 180 degree vista ranging from the Olympics to Vancouver Island and every thing in between.

After lunch we continued upward on this new road as it headed toward the summit of Cultus. At 3300' snow appeared, and the temperature suddenly became icy in the shade of a dense forest of silver fir and hemlock. Due to the lateness of the day or shock from the sudden onset of wintery cold, we decided to turn back. We followed the road back down to the north end of the Cultus ridge, where we found another fresh clearcut with an awesome view of Mt Baker and the Skagit River.

Then we followed the road back down to the cars, forming a sort of semi-loop route. Hike length was 8 miles with 1800' of gain. No other hikers were seen, and only one mellow dirt bike beyond the gate. Here's a map of the route

The gate at Janicke Road may be closed Jan 1, making getting to the top of Cultus or Mundt Mountain a much longer hike (by 6 miles). While the Janicke gate is open, parking at the gated spur at 1700' and hiking from there is a great option for hikers. The gate keeps the whole Mundt Mountain end of Cultus pretty quiet.
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Location
North Cascades -- West Slope

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