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Baker River

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
View map below

Length

5.2 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 300 ft.
Highest Point: 900 ft.

Rating

3.86 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2021
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
Trailhead Inaccessible: As of 10/29/21 Baker Lake Road is washed out at milepost 26, just north of Shannon Creek Campground.
 
 

Take a mellow walk on a trail that wanders among large old trees and huge mossy boulders. The trail alongside Baker River takes you on a path of gentle up and downs, splashing your way through stream crossings and past open areas filled with young alder, huckleberry and salmonberry. On a quiet spring day, your chances of seeing wildlife are excellent. 

Start your hike following the same trail as the East Bank Baker Lake hike, which starts as a flat trail wide enough for two people to walk side by side. In half a mile, the Baker Lake trail turns right and crosses a suspension bridge. While your way is not over the bridge, take a detour and enjoy the views out to Baker Lake and up the river valley. Head back to the main trail, looking for a sign for both the East Bank Baker Lake and Baker River trails. Behind the sign are two large mossy rocks. Your trail weaves between them.

Here, the trail flattens out above the river. Watch for the big cedar; the bases of two trees grew together at the bottom, forming one enormous tree with what looks like two trunks. A little further along, you will walk between two huge boulders. Look for the large 3-foot cave under the one on the left. Who lives here? Ask your younger hikers what they think.

As you look out toward the river, marvel at the powerful forces of nature that bring so many of the large old trees down, now lying half submerged in the middle of the water. The trail climbs up and down a rocky, rooty section, luckily short, then weaves among some beautiful, huge old cedar trees. The size of the trunk on one beside the trail could dwarf an NFL linebacker!

Reach Lake Creek and an old washed out bridge in just over a mile. During periods of high runoff you will not be able to wade across, it is too deep and fast! As of this writing, there are two logs you can use to cross, one above the old footbridge and one below. The one above is a wide old cedar with some grooves to put your knees in as you cross (or feet if you are sure-footed and the log is dry). 

You can also cross the bridge until you reach the end at the washout, walk down the gravel and cross on another log by the river. Evaluate your skills and choose. You can see the power of the water by looking at the new channel as it has almost completely undercut a large tree on the edge of the bank. In a few years, this one may also be a bridge across the creek.

Once across the creek, there are some great views looking south down the valley and high above to the peaks of the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness. The trail then leaves the river and wanders up and down, then past a stagnant pond, made by beavers and probably full of mosquito larvae. Move along quickly to avoid the bugs and reach the North Cascades Park boundary. If the trees haven't leafed out yet, look back at the waterfalls coming down off the rock cliffs. Dogs are not allowed in the park, please respect the rules and stop here if you're hiking with your four legged friend. 

In just under a mile of wandering through a green carpet of moss, reach Sulphide Camp, where the trail ends. Here Sulphide Creek comes down from Mount Shuksan and meets Baker River. If the weather is sunny, you may get a glimpse of that mountain. There are a few nice places to camp here, but you will need a permit from the Park Service (available at the Sedro-Woolley or Marblemount offices).

Remember to keep a clean camp and hang your food! Did you notice all the salmonberries and huckleberries throughout your journey? It ‘bears’ remembering that these make up a large portion of a bear's diet. You might even be lucky enough to spot one!

Extending your hike: The Baker Lake area has many hikes to choose from. It is a great place for a hiking family to spend a weekend. There are established campgrounds located around the lake, some take reservations.

 

Baker River

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.7507, -121.5560 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area

Baker River (#606)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Buy the Green Trails Mt. Shuksan No. 14 map

Buy the Green Trails Mount Baker No. 13 map

Getting There

Take I-5 north to Mount Vernon. Take exit 230, signed for Highway 20 Burlington/Anacortes. Stay in the right lane on the exit ramp and head east on Highway 20. Stay on 20 as it winds through Burlington and Sedro-Woolley. In 23 miles, turn left onto Baker Lake Road. There will be a small brown sign for Baker Lake just before the turnoff. Follow Baker Lake Road (FS 11) all the way to the end, in 26.5 miles. The road is paved until the last 6 miles. There is a large parking lot with a vault toilet. On your way up 20, keep a lookout for the elk herd that likes to hang out in the fields.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
Trailhead Inaccessible: As of 10/29/21 Baker Lake Road is washed out at milepost 26, just north of Shannon Creek Campground.
 

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Baker River

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