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Stunning Hikes near Mount Baker

The high alpine tundra that stretches from the Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) is some of the most spectacular scenery in Washington. This is a place where the views are great, even from the trailhead! Those who choose to hike the trails are well-rewarded with colorful wildflowers, layers upon layers of snowy peaks and the occasional marmot, bear or mountain goat. Washington Trails Association scoured recent Trip Reports, photos and recommendations from our colleagues to suggest these seven fabulous day hikes. But really, you can't go wrong on any hike here.

Wildflowers Skyline Divide
Wildflowers are one of the many delights of hiking in the Mount Baker area. Photo by Stephen Alvarado.

The high alpine tundra that stretches from the Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) is some of the most spectacular scenery in Washington. This is a place where the views are great, even from the trailhead.

Hikers on Mt. Baker-area trails are well-rewarded with colorful wildflowers, never-ending vistas of snowy peaks and the occasional marmot, bear or mountain goat.

What makes this area even more special is that it is attainable only in a short window of time between August and the end of September. Some years, when the snow stubbornly stays put, the main road never even gets plowed out.

Washington Trails Association scoured recent Trip Reports, photos and recommendations from our colleagues to suggest these seven fabulous day hikes. But really, you can't go wrong on any hike here.

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Easy Hikes

Chain Lakes

Middle Chain Lake
From Herman Saddle, look down on Bagley Lakes and across past the highway and Mount Shuksan's imposing face. Photo by Climbear.

Round Trip: 2 to 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,700'
Best Season: late July - mid-October

As an easy-going loop hike or backpack, or as a short day trip, the Chain Lakes don't disappoint.

Families with small children will enjoy a 2-mile loop around the Bagley Lakes, which lie in a deep cirque below Table Mountain. Push on for more glory, including Herman Saddle and the Chain Lakes—Iceberg, Arbuthnet, Hayes and Mazama.

Take the opportunity to admire the scenery, sift your fingers through the black volcanic sand beaches, dip your toes into the icy lakes and pick a few berries. Do note that snow can linger well into late summer. Bring a map, as there are several loop options that can take you back to your vehicle.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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Table Mountain

Middle Chain Lake
Catching sunrise or sunset from atop Table Mountain is inspiring. Photo by Treeana.

Round Trip: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 560'
Best Season:
late August - mid-October

Table Mountain is one of the easiest mountain climbs in the state—at least after the snow melts.

In a short mile-and-a-half, reach the flat top of this rocky barren peak. You'll be faced with the glacial slopes of Mount Baker on one side and Shuksan on the other. It's pretty awesome.

We recommend checking conditions with the ranger station to ensure the snow is melted out enough to be safe. If it's not, try Ptarmigan Ridge or Huntoon Point as an alternative.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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Moderate

Winchester Lookout

Winchester Mountain Lookout
Not a bad place to be: Winchester Mountain Lookout. Photo by David Inscho.

Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1320'
Best Season: late August - mid-October

Winchester Mountain is a stunning hike from start to finish. With fields of heather, sparkling lakes and views that will impress even the most seasoned hiker, this short and fairly easy hike should be on your bucket list.

A dangerous snowfield keeps it off-limits until late summer and early fall, but then it is open for business! Some hikers are even lucky enough to snag the lookout for an overnight.

Note that the road to the trailhead is a bit dicey for the family sedan.

>> Read more in our Hiking Guide

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Skyline Divide

Middle Chain Lake
This is Skyline Divide. Need we say more? Photo by Mtnmaniac.

Round Trip: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,500'
Best Season: August - September

Go silly with flowers in mid-August on Skyline Divide. You'll want your good camera to frame the grassy lupine-filled meadows with Mount Baker's looming white bulk in the background.

The bugs are notorious on this hike, but it is worth braving a few bites to take in the scene on the ridge.

Many hikers don't go beyond the first viewpoint, and those that walk up the ridge will shed company as they go. Better yet, haul up a backpack and take in the stars on a clear night. Just be sure not to park your tent on one of the meadows.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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Yellow Aster Butte

Middle Chain Lake
Autumn at Yellow Aster Butte. Photo by Trevor Anderson

Round Trip: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,500'
Best Season: August - mid-October

Go late August for impressive wildflowers or a few weeks later for fabulous fall color and huckleberry feasting.

Yellow Aster Butte is a classic hike that should be on every hiker's bucket list. You won't find many (or any) yellow asters here, but you will be gobsmacked by the unending views.

Bring a map that shows the whole area, then spend some time identifying the multitude of peaks, from the prominent Mount Shuksan and Mount Tomyhoi to the mountains along and on the other side of the Canadian border.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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Heliotrope Ridge

Middle Chain Lake
Touch the toe of Coleman Glacier on the Heliotrope Ridge trail. Photo by Treeana.

Note: The road to this trailhead washed out in May 2013 and is unlikely to be fixed this year.
Round Trip: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,400'
Best Season: late August - early October

Heliotrope Ridge offers a treat unlike many of the other four-star hikes near Mount Baker: the chance to touch the icy toe of the Coleman Glacier.

Join the legions of climbers marching up Mount Baker for your chance to inspect the blue chunks of glacier cascading down this frozen volcano.

Stay safe by remaining on terra firma during your stay, however. Another cautionary note is that there are several un-bridged stream crossings along the hike. This is one to save until later in the season, when the flows are not so fast and deep.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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Difficult

 

Church Mountain

Middle Chain Lake
Holy mixed metaphor, the views from Church Mountain are very impressive. Photo by Marty Barney.

Round Trip: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,750'
Best Season: mid-July - early October

Church Mountain lives up to its lofty name. But it makes you work for it with what seems like a bazillion switchbacks that make the nearly 900-vertical-feet-per-mile gain only a teensy bit more tolerable.

For all of your sweat equity, you get a stunning 360 and way more solitude than the other hikes in this feature. It's also a trail that is attainable earlier in the season, due to its south-facing ascent. Bring water, however; this is a pretty dry hike.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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Hannegan Peak

Middle Chain Lake
The views from Hannegan Peak back towards the pass and Mount Ruth leave us speechless. Photo by Jeff Bottman.

Round Trip: 10.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,100'
Best Season: August - October

Splash on the bug spray and sunscreen to prepare for one of those iconic alpine hikes you crave all winter long.

With waterfalls, flowers and more to distract you from the bugs, the Hannegan Peak trail delivers from the very beginning. The way starts moderately and only gets to business at the 3-mile mark as you ascend to Hannegan Pass.

For the real payoff, press on from the pass to the peak. A steep-but-short climb takes you to the top of Hannegan Peak where you'll want to spend some time spinning around like a record to take in the sights from every direction.

>> Read the Hiking Guide for more information

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