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Yellow Aster Butte

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Find supreme wildflower gardens and a high-country plateau speckled with shimmering tarns-but that's not all. Spectacular alpine vistas abound too-of Baker, Shuksan, and all those rugged and craggy peaks straddling the 49th parallel. Yellow Aster Butte may be a misnomer (those yellow-petaled delights are actually daisies), but you definitely don't want to miss hiking here.

Sharing a start with the Tomyhoi Lake Trail, begin on a steep course alternating between cool old-growth forest and warm brushy avalanche slopes. Views out to Goat Mountain and big ol' Baker aren't bad from the brushy openings. Shortly after entering the Mount Baker Wilderness, the grade thankfully eases up. The tread remains excellent, the result of a lot of volunteer work over the years on this heavily traveled trail.

The way soon breaks out into a basin bursting with berry patches. Do this hike in September and you're sure to be caught red handed (and mouthed) partaking in gluttonous behavior. But these antioxidants sure make a better choice than chips! In 1.4 miles come to a junction (elev. 5150 ft) with the Tomyhoi Lake Trail. Head left for Yellow Aster on trail constructed in the 1990s that replaced the deeply eroded (but beloved by many) Keep Kool Trail.

Slab around the basin on a fairly level course, flushing rodents, birds, and perhaps a weary hiker or two out of the bountiful berry patches. As you round the basin, Mount Shuksan reveals her beauty. Baker flaunts his as well from across Austin Pass. After moderate climbing across boulder-strewn heather meadows, the trail drops about 100 feet into a snow-harboring basin. Showy penstemon and monkey flowers spruce up the stark gulch with touches of purple and gold.

Climb more steeply, now, rounding Yellow Aster's south shoulder. Catch your breath-not from altitude, but from multitude-a beautiful multitude of peaks, ridges, and tarns spread out before you. At 3.5 miles reach a junction on a ledge overlooking the glacier-scoured tarnished plateau below. Head left, dropping about 200 feet to explore this water-pocked pocket; or take the way trail right, steeply climbing 400 feet in 0.25 mile to ascend the butte.

From this 6150-foot promontory, look out over an amazing landscape of emerald ridges, verdant valleys, snow-capped spires, and glacier-clad giants. Winchester, Larrabee, American Border, and Canadian Border peaks are particularly striking. So too is Tomyhoi, the big broad behemoth dominating the north viewscape.
Driving Directions:

From Bellingham follow the Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542) east for 34 miles to the Glacier Public Service Center. Continue east another 13 miles, turning left onto Forest Road 3065 (signed "Twin Lakes Road"; the turnoff is just beyond the Department of Transportation's Shuksan garage). Immediately bear left at an unmarked junction and continue on FR 3065 for 4.5 miles to the trailhead located at a sharp switchback with tight parking (elev. 3600 ft). Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 122 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Yellow Aster Butte — Oct 18, 2013 — jeffbottman
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage | Ripe berries
Issues: Snow on trail
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Gorgeous weather ... now is the time to go! Snow is now patchy and mushy. Route finding is a littl...
Gorgeous weather ... now is the time to go! Snow is now patchy and mushy. Route finding is a little tricky, as the trail disappears here and there under the snow, and the snow is covered with foot prints that are not to be trusted. The way is pretty obvious, though. Bring trekking poles and gaiters for sure. Traction aids not needed.
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Yellow Aster Butte — Oct 10, 2013 — crystine
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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Perfectly beautiful and quiet in the snow. Snow packed down in a manageable trail about a mile up. D...
Perfectly beautiful and quiet in the snow. Snow packed down in a manageable trail about a mile up. Don't let it deter you just put on some boots and gaiters and you're all set. Some drifts are knee deep and a 6' hiker.
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Yellow Aster Butte — Oct 09, 2013 — Terri
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Yellow Aster Butte is still reachable! At least, with good snow-tolerant boots, gaiters, goretex pan...
Yellow Aster Butte is still reachable! At least, with good snow-tolerant boots, gaiters, goretex pants, and hiking poles. Dryness at the parking lot does not even hint at the loads of snow above! At about 1 mile up the trail you get to patchy snow, and at 1.5 miles, the trail becomes solid packed snow. It is packed down well enough through about 2.5 miles that if you are careful you might not even need gaiters, but I would highly recommend them. Definitely after that point, the snow is at least hip-deep in many places.

After 2.5 mi, you'd better be ready for post-holing or trail-breaking in the snow. The snow was nicely packable today, and you rarely sank in more than 12-14 inches. Scrambling up the butte itself is still possible, with some kicking of snow steps. I'm pretty sure, however, we were not on the (impossible to see due to snow) actual trail, so don't follow our postholes! All the mountains were out in their snowy glory. We met 13 hikers altogether (including ourselves), and only one other hiker went up the butte before us. What a great time of year to be hiking in the Cascades! Don't let the snow scare you off!
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Yellow Aster Butte — Oct 05, 2013 — LoveWa
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Were looking to hike something with fall colors, instead due to recent snow fall it was a very snowy...
Were looking to hike something with fall colors, instead due to recent snow fall it was a very snowy hike. Trail is ok for the first mile, the rest of it had pretty deep snow. Definitely would have brought snowshoes if knew how it would be. On the way back it warmed up and snow became very slushy. All of us had wet boots by the time we got down. Other than that it was a beautiful day and views were pretty great!
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Yellow Aster Butte — Sep 26, 2013 — Jfrich
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
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A spectacular hike. Just want to note that the access road (twin lakes road) was slow going for our ...
A spectacular hike. Just want to note that the access road (twin lakes road) was slow going for our ford mustang rental car but we made the 4 mile drive to the trailhead and back without incident. Took about a half hour each way. The trail itself was in great shape. We got a late start (12:30 pm) and had to push the speed on the way up. Turned around at the base of the .25 mile climb to the peak due to make sure we had daylight for the drive down.total time was 4 hours 37 min.
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yellow aster butte by trevor anderson.jpg
Fall colors at Yellow Aster Butte are as breath-taking as views of Mount Baker you will find along the sometime steep climb. Photo by Trevor Anderson.
WTA worked here!
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Location
Yellow Aster Butte (#699)
North Cascades -- Mount Baker Highway
Mount Baker Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain 2550 ft
Highest Point 6150 ft
Features
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Mount Shuksan No. 14

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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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