The wife and I drove up North today for a training hike and some views, and a new summit for me. I've noted the Chuckanut Mountains several times while reading trip reports and researching hikes. Located South of Bellingham right along the sound, there are many miles of trail between several different parks in the area open to varying combinations of hikers, horses and mountain bikes.
Blanchard Hill / Chuckanut Mountain from HWY 11
Pacific Northwest Trail
The route we chose starts from Highway 11 where it intersects with the Pacific Northwest Trail, which travels from the far NW corner of the Olympic Penninsula to the Rocky Mountains in Montana, between roads, trails and ferries. After a 1 1/2 hour drive from Renton we were more than ready to get moving. There is not much parking available on the side of the highway, enough room for 10-20 vehicles max. The first section of trail switchbacks up steep slopes toward Samish Overlook where Para-gliders and Hang-gliders launch off the cliffs. One could cut at least 2 miles and 1000' of climbing by parking in the lot at the Overlook. Discovery Pass required.
The Ice Age
Bat Caves trail closure
We passed the turnoff for Samish Overlook, planning on looping through it from Max's Shortcut Trail after visiting Lily Lake giving the dense clouds and fog time to clear. The trail to the Bat Caves was closed recently to prevent disturbing the nature. Bummer, but fair enough. The trail to the OysterDome is not marked, and it is kind of hard to see it at the start. We found a campsite complete with a fire pit at the summit. The rock at the viewpoint was insanely slick, even where it was clearly dry from the sun. Views were incredible of the Olympics, dozens of islands in the Sound, and even some distant Canadian peaks. I dropped down below for a look at the big wall and could see huge cracks below (maybe part of the caves).
Below the OysterDome Viewpoint
Looking down at the Bat Caves from OysterDome
Canadian Peaks from the summit of OysterDome
We encountered some snow on the trail en route to Lily Lake, which was frozen over and covered in powder. It would have been very peaceful if not for a couple folks who seemed to find it necessary to yell back and forth around the camping area. The sun caught the Northern edge of the lake, creating a creepy fog that lingered while we snacked, and until I returned from the short bushwhack to the main summit of what the locals call Blanchard Hill. We did not see a sign for Max's Shortcut, but found the trail itself rather easily. We were passed by a few mountain bikers on their way down, as well as a few hikers on their way up.
Blanchard Hill Summit Block
Hanging near the Summit
The trail was clear of trees to the Oysterdome. We climbed over several blowdowns, and encountered about a mile of patchy snow on the trail from there to Lily Lake and on Max's Shortcut. It seems like we never covered more than a quarter mile without a creek crossing, except for the switchbacks below Samish Overlook.
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