We headed down to to the south side of Mount Baker for a weekend camping. Instead of two day hikes on similar trails we decided to jam them all in one trail run.
We camped at one of the many campsites on the Baker Lake trail, all surprisingly full for the weekend after Labour Day. I think we picked up a late cancellation. From the campsite, the road to the trailhead for these very popular day hikes is pretty close. We set off reasonably early but already found the trailhead super busy.
We started on the trail to Park Butte and Railroad Grade, which is a great for trail running. We passed plenty of hikers and it was much quieter as we reached the fork for RR Grade and Park Butte. We opted for RR Grade first.
After a brief climb and section through the campground we made it onto the long lateral moraine from the Easton Glacier that is the RR Grade. Stunning views on the long climb up the moraine with a few steep drops down to the glacier outlet river. We climbed up to a point adjacent to High Camp where glacier mountains overnight before climbing. Having a first half of lunch looking at Mount Baker and down onto the glacier – wow!
Descending RR Grade was the hardest part of the trail because we don’t have trail running shoes and our road runners didn’t have the grip needed.
We planned to fill out water bladders at the campsite, but someone told us the creek was dry. After some roaming we found a small water source and headed on up to Park Butte. The fire lookout on Park Butte is clearly the popular destination as we passed lots of hikers – so many folks with babies and kids in carriers – and also hikers with nice dogs!
The view from Park Butte is stunning. The lookout is perched the rock outcrop with a veranda around. We sat looking at Mountain Baker for the second half of lunch.
We decided to escape the crowds and dropped down the main trail. As we reached the junction with the Scott Paul trail we decided to add that loop. It essentially drops you down into the valley between the two lateral moraines. A suspension bridge takes you over the raging glacial stream. It’s a fabulous trail – very quiet – with large parts like a lunar landscape, before finally climbing up the moraine into the forest. Lots of big trees and a nice descent back to the main trail. It’s really nice that when you join the main trail you only have about 50 m to the trailhead! Total distance is about 23.5 km with 1300 m elevation gain.
We’d highly recommend the full loop. Or if you can’t manage it all, do either Park Butte or Railroad grade on your outbound and then Scott Paul in the way back for more solitude.
The weather and visibility was amazing.
Afterwards we headed down to the bottom of the Baker Lake road to the Birdsview Brewery where we enjoyed a particularly refreshing and well earned beer.