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Oyster Dome

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A glacial-polished and fractured exposed hunk of sheer cliff on Blanchard Mountain, Oyster Dome is an intriguing and scenic natural landmark. Its base is littered with jumbled boulders, talus fields, and bat-breeding caves. And from atop, views abound of the Sound, mountains, and a smorgasbord of islands. A popular hiking destination year-round, Oyster Dome is the pearl of the Chuckanut Mountains.

Your route begins on the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 1200-mile long-distance trail-in-the-making from the Olympic Coast to Montana's Glacier National Park. Through a uniform forest of second-growth conifers, gain elevation steadily. A few giant snags and remnant firs stand testament to the cathedral forests that once blanketed this region. The trail is well constructed and maintained, thanks not to the government but to dedicated volunteers.

Smell sweet maritime air as you ascend the verdant slopes of Blanchard Mountain. Rising from Samish Bay, Blanchard is the only place in the Cascades where mountain meets sea. A recreational and biological gem between Bellingham and Mount Vernon, much of this landmass was slated to be logged. But due to the work of Conservation Northwest and other local organizations, a consensus of sorts has been reached, with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources protecting Blanchard's trails and guaranteeing that its core will remain in a natural state.

In 1 mile reach a small ledge with big views out to the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains. In another 0.5 mile reach a signed junction (elev. 1100 ft). Head left on the Samish Bay Connection Trail. Now on rougher tread, make a gentle traverse across Blanchard's western slopes, hopping across a few streams in the process. In 0.5 mile from the junction, reach another junction, this one with the Oyster Dome Trail. The way left leads to a logging road. Head right for your objective. The grade once again steepens and you enter a damp, dark glen. Pass giant erratics, springboard-notched cedar stumps, and an ice-age interpretive sign before coming to a junction with the Talus Trail.

To reach the base of Oyster Dome, an area referred to as the Amphitheater Bat Caves, proceed left. After a tricky creek crossing, the short trail delivers you to a jumbled mess of talus beneath sheer cliffs. It's quite a sight. This rocky chaos contains numerous caves. Extremely hazardous to explore, they should be left for the resident bat colonies.

To get to the top of the dome, continue 0.1 mile on the main path, climbing steeply to yet another junction. Head left on the Rock Trail. Pass rusty old cable and other logging relics. Cross a small creek, then make one final push, breaking out of the forest onto the rim of the open promontory. Be careful. Keep children and dogs nearby. Oyster Dome's abrupt drop may lead you to clam up. Its views, however, are succulent. Spread out before you are the San Juan Islands, Fildalgo Island, Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, the Skagit River flats and a whole lot of saltwater. Count islands, watch boats, and soak up the sun's rays.
Driving Directions:

From Mount Vernon head north on I-5 to exit 231. Follow State Route 11 (Chuckanut Drive) north for 10.2 miles. The trailhead is on the right side of the road just after passing milepost 10. There is parking on the left (west) shoulder of the highway. If you're coming from Bellingham follow SR 11 south for 11.5 miles to the trailhead (elev. 100 ft). The trailhead is about 300ft south of Oyster bar.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 173 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Oyster Dome — Apr 14, 2014 — McHikers
Day hike
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It was a perfect day for this hike. We were a little concerned that we would not be able to see the ...
It was a perfect day for this hike. We were a little concerned that we would not be able to see the islands due to the weather forecast. When we got to the top it was clear snd the views are amazing. We sat in the sun and enjoyed the view of the islands. This is is definitely a good thigh burner but totally worth it. There were a few muddy spots but other than that the trail is in great shape.
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Oyster Dome — Apr 14, 2014 — Mushroom
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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CAR WAS TOWED. Beware. We came back from a wonderful hike that was perfect to kick start the 2014 se...
CAR WAS TOWED. Beware. We came back from a wonderful hike that was perfect to kick start the 2014 season to find no car. A quick walk up to the oyster restaurant to get the phone book and track down where Petes Towing is. Long story short, If you are hiking Oyster Dome make sure your tires are not touching (evenly slightly) the white line on the shoulder. Since there was only 2 inches between my right set of tires and the drop off, I figured keeping one inch of tire on the white line would be OK. $315 to get my car back and luckily I had a friend there to take me all the way back to Burlington. The tow company said one other car was towed as well, and when we were leaving I counted 8 more cars that were parked the same or worse than I. The hike was beautiful though!
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Oyster Dome — Apr 06, 2014 — hikinginthenorthwest
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail
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The day turned out to be great. The clouds opened up later in the day when I reached the dome and wa...
The day turned out to be great. The clouds opened up later in the day when I reached the dome and was able to see far vistas. What a wonderful view from the top. I could clearly see the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound. Unfortunately visibility was not far enough to see Olympics. There were para gliders flying in the sky, soaring with a lone eagle. Really an amazing place to hike to. Even saw a barefoot hiker, a rarity.

The hike is steep and hard for most of the way. It gets a little rough during the latter half of the trail due to tree roots and rocks. There was some water and mud on the trail. But everything was worth it. Will do it again for sure.

A great hike and I'll definitely recommend it.

More details at my blog http://sunilshikes.wordpress.com/[…]/
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Oyster Dome — Apr 06, 2014 — Karen Daubert
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail
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This was one of those very special days when serendipity played a role. Neither Jared nor I had exp...
This was one of those very special days when serendipity played a role. Neither Jared nor I had explored this trail so we decided to make a day of the adventure.

We started in the little town of Edison (famous for being the home of Edward R. Murrow amongst other things) at the Bread Line where we purchased their famous sour cherry lemon bread and goodies for the trail.

We arrived at the trail head (clearly marked by not only being mile ten on Chuckanut Drive but by being lined with dozens of cars) to find that we were parked immediately behind a carload of noisy happy hikers. Those hikers were non-other than WTA friends - Joe Hofbeck (550 WTA volunteer days on trail), his active artist wife Dianne, and Dave and Leslie! So our solo hike turned into a wonderful series of conversations about hiking, volunteering, advocacy, and other adventure-related topics. All of which is to say that the three-plus miles to the top flew by!

The 3.25 mile trail gains its 2000 feet quickly. It is in fairly good condition with several damp spots that were not difficult to navigate (poles were helpful) and the steep part near the top was easier up than down but not too bad all-told.

The view from the top of Oyster Dome is remarkable! The San Juans were spread out before us surrounded by the waters of Puget Sound in all their glory. Absolutely lovely! And it turns out that this is a popular spot for students at Western Washington State University in Bellingham - which explains the dozens of young people out for a day in the sun!

We ended our Chuckanut adventure with a stop at nearby Taylor Shell Fish where we stocked up on muscles and oysters and reminisced about our most excellent day!
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Oyster Dome — Mar 31, 2014 — Surviving Urban
Day hike
Issues: Mudholes
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Great time on the Oyster Dome trail. Saw quite a few folks out on the trail enjoying the nice weathe...
Great time on the Oyster Dome trail. Saw quite a few folks out on the trail enjoying the nice weather. Typical muddy spots along this trail. I wore my trail runners which have mesh uppers and was able to keep my feet dry on the way up. I jogged down most of the way and my right foot did sink in one muddy spot. Over all the trail is in great shape.

Views were good, although I wish I had an on off switch for the industrial smoke stacks in the distance.

Fun hike and although it can be somewhat steep at times I always see people of all ages on this trail. It also is one of my 10 year old's favorite hikes. He begged me to let him skip school and hike with me. I am going to have to let him someday. He raced up it for the first time when he was 8. This time I saw a young girl trucking up the trail who looked about six.

For more on my little hike visit:

http://survivingurban.com/oyster-dome/

-Ken
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oyster_dome.jpg
The view from Oyster Dome, by Hiker Jim.
Location
Puget Sound and Islands -- North Sound
Department of Natural Resources, Northwest Region
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain 1900 ft
Highest Point 2025 ft
Features
Mountain views
Summits
Wildlife
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
USGS Bow

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

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