Hiking in the North Cascades: Skyline Divide

That was the song that kept going through my head during last week’s hike up in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. My buddy Matt and I hiked the Skyline Divide trail last Thursday and let me tell you–it was gorgeous!

I thought it would be a great place to try out my new camera, and when I heard the wildflowers had just bloomed it naturally had to be next on the to-do list. The trail is located along the Mount Baker Highway (SR-547), about 30 miles east of Bellingham near the town of Glacier. The drive up the 12.8-mile, one-lane, gravel road (Forest Road 37) to the trailhead was slow-going and bumpy, but gains over 3000 feet in elevation; saving you from a long, steep trek up the mountainside. There are some rough spots here and there. My car had a much lower clearance than the trucks and SUV’s we saw going back down, but was still able to make it up unharmed.

We got started a little later in the day than we normally do and the parking lot at the trailhead (elev 4300 ft) was already packed with cars. Even in the middle of the week, this is a really popular hike. We gathered up our gear and set out on the trail, which gets right down to business and immediately starts ascending up several flights of stairs. The first mile is pretty straightforward and goes right up the hillside without many switchbacks. After that, the path gradually gets less steep as the trees thin out and open up to small meadows–a taste of what is yet to come.

The trail crests the ridge at the 2-mile mark (elev 5900 ft), and immediately opens up to wide, open, wildflower-laden meadows. It was amazing to see heavily glaciated Mount Baker suddenly appear literally right in our faces, dominating the southern skyline. Majestic Mount Shuksan also came into view from across the valley. This is where the cameras came out and got a good workout for pretty much the entire time we were up there.

While the trail continues for a few miles going up the ridge toward Mount Baker, we were content with where we were at and spent the next hour and a half enjoying the scenery. We took a short walk over to one viewpoint, where I found my 1800th geocache. Despite all the other hikers on the trail, it surprisingly felt quite and secluded up there. There is a lot of open space up there for people to spread out and find their own little spots.

Compared to a lot of other hikes I’ve done, this didn’t seem as long and tiring to get to the views. For the relatively small amount of effort it took to get up there, I thought it was very rewarding. I think it would be worth another visit to make it all the way to the end and back. But for now, other hikes on the to-do list are calling my name!

Also, check out Matt’s blog post–he’s got a lot of amazing shots from the hike as well!


10 thoughts on “Hiking in the North Cascades: Skyline Divide

  1. Hello new desktop background.

    By the way, not too long ago I wiped clean my Macbook. Thought that I backed up my pictures but long story short they didn’t back up. I lost everything after “F”.

    Good bye epic hike pictures w/ Stephen 😦

    These are incredible, though. Seriously.

    • That is very sad news indeed. Those were some great photos! Still my favorite hike to date. I actually borrowed a few to use in that slideshow Tim put together before you left Whidbey, I can send them to you if you want! Thanks for the comment dude!

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