Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest is tucked between Seattle, Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Park — an enviable location that makes it one of the most accessible and highly trafficked national forests in the United States. It's a haven for wilderness newbies and back-country explorers alike, offering 1,500 miles of trails, 10 wilderness areas, more than 200 glaciers and some of the best salmon-fishing rivers and lakes in Washington. With different activities available for each season, you can find a new adventure every month of the year.
Head up to the Heather Meadows area to hike the breathtaking Bagley Lakes Trail. It runs along the side of the lake through a high-elevation wonderland, so everywhere you look, you'll see evergreens in varying shades of green, fields of wildflowers, the occasional waterfall and the impossibly blue Bagley lake. Fall brings a warm wash of color, and patches of winter snow remain well into the late spring and early summer. The trail is easy to follow, featuring steps and boardwalks, so it's a great option for families with small children. If you have the energy for a slightly longer loop, take the Chain Lakes Trail or the Wild Goose Trail back to the trailhead for a 2-mile round-trip hike.
Length: 1.5 miles round-trip
Intensity: Easy to Moderate
If you're in search of a family hike, check out the Baker Lake Trail. It's relatively level and located just 1,000 feet above sea level, so you don't need to worry about the effects of elevation. The trail passes through stands of ancient, moss-covered trees; in the spring, wildflowers grow around the bases of the massive Douglas fir trees. For an easy 3-mile hike, turn around at Anderson Creek.
Length: 14.3 miles one-way
Intensity: Easy to Moderate
Explore the Mt. Baker Wilderness on the Heliotrope Ridge Trail, which travels through old-growth forests and up glacial moraines. Head to Hiker's Overlook for a shorter hike and beautiful views, or continue on to Hogsback Camp to see the Coleman Glacier. This trail includes a variety of stream crossings; do not attempt to cross when the water is high.
Length: 4.6 miles round-trip
Intensity: Moderate to Difficult
Looking for a fast, easy hike? The Shadow of the Sentinels Trail is a great option for people of all abilities. It takes you through a stand of towering Douglas fir and cedar trees that have been growing for more than 500 years. On the forest floor, a bed of ferns and moss surround you with lush greenery. The trail consists of asphalt and boardwalks for easy navigation; it's open year-round.
Length: 1 mile round-trip
Hikers, mountain bikers and motorbikes are all welcome on the Canyon Ridge Trail. This route travels high into the mountains, gaining 2,000 feet of elevation. The highest points offer panoramic views of Mt. Baker, Tomyhoi Peak and Bearpaw Mountain. On clear days, you can see all the way north into Canada. Start from the East Damfino Lakes Trailhead or the West Trailhead. Brush up on your bear safety before you go because black bears live in the area.
Length: 10.3 miles one way
Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest offers more than 3.5 million acres of spectacular wilderness. If you're interested in the forest's famous wildflower blooms, take a spring hike on the Tomyhoi Lake Trail. Heather Meadows is one of the best places to find huckleberries and heather; you'll also see lava rocks and ridges covered in ancient hemlock trees. On the John Muir Nature Trail, check out a 700-year-old Douglas fir tree that's more than 9 feet in diameter.
Bring your fishing gear and join local anglers for the start of the sockeye salmon season at Baker Lake in early July. Cast from the shore or launch a canoe or motorboat from the ramps at Horseshoe Cove Campground, Shannon Creek Campground or Swift Creek Campground. If you're interested in trout fishing, hike up to Silver Lake and fish from the shore.
For some of the best wildlife-watching in the forest, boat the Skagit Wild and Scenic River to see elk drinking from the banks and bald eagles swooping down to snack on salmon. If you prefer to drive, you can also watch them from the overlooks along WA-20 near the town of Marblemount. Another place to see elk and deer is the Gold Creek Pond Interpretive Trail. For a quiet bird-watching experience, head to Forest Road 70 and check out the turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks and violet-green swallows that live in the trees.
Geocaching is allowed in Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest as long as you stay outside of the 10 designated wilderness areas that make up nearly half the park. Check out the caches at Boulder Creek Campground and the Suntop Lookout.
If you're camping in the forest, walk away from the campfire for beautiful views of the night sky. The best stargazing happens in the northern and eastern parts of the forest where the light pollution from Seattle is less visible.
Address: 2930 Wetmore Ave. Suite 3A, Everett, WA, 98201
Fee: Entry fee $0
In Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest, there's a new vista and an exciting adventure around every turn. Whether you want to reel in a massive salmon at Baker Lake or spend your afternoons hiking high into alpine meadows, camping is the perfect way to experience the landscape to the fullest. An RV is a wonderful way to sleep comfortably in the cool alpine evenings and wake up refreshed and ready for fun.