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Trip Report

Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail, High Divide Trail — Monday, Jul. 1, 2019

North Cascades
Mount Shuksan from the High Divide Trail

After being closed for a few years, the Canyon Creek Road is open again but it is terrible! Miles of potholes that will swallow your car. However, The Damfino Lakes Trailhead provides much easier access to this wonderful highland wander that it's still preferable (IMHO) to the grueling climb from the Mount Baker Highway to Excelsior Pass or the same to Welcome Pass. Stay attentive on the road though, watching for those deep craters.

You can also access the High Divide (Nooksack Crest) going cross country from Church Mountain on the west end or from Yellow Aster Butte or even from Twin Lakes/Low Pass/High Pass on the east end. Stretching it out like that though turns it into a multi day event with a lot of trailless tough going. In the 1970s the Forest Service had proposed a 'Nooksack Crest Trail' running from Church Mountain all the way to Twin Lakes and possibly continuing to Hannegan Pass. That trail was not to be but that wild land is still out there for the adventurous spirit.

The High Divide Trail is a gem in the Mount Baker District's inventory of trails! Even a turn-around at the summit of Excelsior Peak is enough to give you a good taste of what it's all about, but the icing on the cake are those 5  lonesome, ridge-roaming miles between Excelsior Pass and Welcome Pass.

There are a few big logs across the trail beyond Damfino Lakes which you can make your way over or around and a few more along the High Divide Trail, which caused us to do some regretful meadow trampling. We hope that those will soon be cut from the trail, to at least prevent foot traffic from impacting the meadows.

Flowers were in bloom along the entire ridge. Glacier Lilies, Spring Beauty, Lupine, Partridge Foot, Sitka Valerian, Cascade Bistort and others. You can smell it all on the breeze up there. Oh, and did I mention that the trail is snow free? Well, virtually anyway. You may have to place your foot in a patch here and there. The 2.5 mile portion from the Damfino Lakes Trailhead to Excelsior Pass has several small patches to walk in as well as small creeks to rock-hop across.

We ended up with a 13+ mile round trip, turning around just before the last drop to Welcome Pass. A great place to stop, with the impressive architecture of Mount Shuksan right in your face, views up the North Fork Nooksack Valley of Icy Peak, Ruth Mountain, the Nooksack Tower, Mount Sefrit, Tomyhoi, Larrabee, the Border Peaks, the Picket Range and others off on the eastern horizon.

Meadows and more meadows


Lucy on High Divide, Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail

Bummer to hear that the Canyon Creek Road is in such bad shape after waiting so long for it to open. Thanks for the report. This area is a great place to explore especially along the ridge.

Posted by:

Lucy on Jul 02, 2019 05:59 PM

Randy G on High Divide, Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail

You're welcome Lucy. Maybe there will be a "phase two", where they return to fix the potholes?

Posted by:

Randy G on Jul 03, 2019 07:42 AM

sk on High Divide, Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail

I've wanted to hike the High Divide, Welcome Pass to Excelsior Pass leaving a car at both trailheads, I never thought of this option from Damfino Lakes. I've done all three at different times, thanks for this post!

Posted by:

sk on Jul 05, 2019 06:16 PM

Posted by:

Randy G on Jul 07, 2019 08:22 AM