Well, it has been a long time since I have written a post! I just purchased a new camera, so I decided it was time for me to add a blog post.
Last weekend I went to Skyline Divide with a few friends. We had a perfect day for it, sunny not to hot, a little buggy…but it could have been worse.
There were many backpackers camping along the way. I imagine the sunsets and sunrises are amazing up there if you have clear skies. There are a couple of things to be aware of if backpacking this trail. First, no water sources. You have to carry all of your water up. Second, all visitors must pack out (not bury) human waste. They did have some blue bags at the trailhead. It looks like there are two designated camping places (see WTA for more info or contact a local ranger station) however, it seemed many were just camping on the ridge line.
To get to the trail, take the Mount Baker Hwy (SR-542) east for 34 miles to the Glacier Public Service Center. Reset your odometer, and watch carefully for the junction with FR-39 (Glacier Creek Road), just 0.8 miles down the road and to the right. Immediately after the intersection with FR-39, follow the signs to the Skyline Divide Trail and turn left on FR-37. Continue for 12.9 miles until the trailhead. Caution! the road was very potholed in the beginning portion and rocky and narrow in other parts with several blind turns. Some sedans did make it up fine…even a Honda Fit was there, but I would recommend an SUV. It is also a good idea to visit the bathrooms at the ranger station before heading up this bumpy road. The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived at 9:30. I recommend getting an early start to grab parking. If staying overnight, you might be able to show up later…after some of the day hikers have left.
Hiking stats per WTA:
Distance: 9 miles round trip if you go to all of the knolls (we did about 8.25 round trip)
Gain: 2500 Feet (this is a bit deceiving because there are a lot of ups and downs over the knolls.)
High point: 6563 feet (according to GAIA we got to about 6463 feet) and gained 2388
Parking pass needed: Northwest Forest Pass
For more trail info see: https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/skyline-divide
The trail starts out at climbing, it gains 1500 feet in two miles. Nothing like a good climb to get your heart pumping and to warm you up! Luckily this part of the climb is mostly through the forest, so it is shaded. When you get near the tree line, the trail opens up to wildflower fields and some peek-a-boo views of Mt. Baker and other peaks. This is just a teaser. We were a little late for some of the flowers, but there was a lot of lupine!
You will eventually make it out of the trees on the first knoll with a WOW look there is Baker view. I think if we were a little earlier there would have been more variety of flowers here too. Baker will be to the South and Shuksan will be to the east. You will come to a fork in the trail, the trail that that goes to the left leads to potential campsites, continue right and enter the Mount Baker Wilderness. At this point you have gone 2 miles.
According to WTA, continue 2.5 more miles on the “gently rolling” ridge line over a series of five more knolls. I thought some of these “gently rolling” parts were a bit steep, but short. On the second knoll you have an option to take the fork to the left over a steep trail or go around the knoll. I recommend saving your energy and going around it to the right. WTA says there is a similar option at the 3rd knoll, but I don’t recall seeing it. As you continue to move southward the views keep getting better, it is worth the effort to go farther.
At the fourth knoll, 3.5 miles from the trailhead, there is another split in the trail. The trail to the left goes to campsites a mile away near Deadhorse Creek in the valley below. Continue on the trail to the right, to climb the spines of the 5th and 6th Knolls. There is a little bit of a scrable at the bottom of the 5th knoll but it is short, and there are some big drop offs with views of the valley below. As you continue the views of Baker and surrounding mountains keep getting better and better.
Two of us opted to continue. We reached the 6th knoll and I debated going up, it was steep and a bit of loose scree…but I said, “If we go part way, I am most likely to make it to the top.” I am glad I made the effort! Great 360 degree views! If the others were not waiting on us, I would have been tempted to go a little farther as it did not look too hard to get to the next big viewpoint. However, we decided to make this our end point for the day.
On the way back you will be saying…”I think this is the last knoll, the last uphill” and you will be wrong. There will be one more. Next time…to the next viewpoint!