Chain Lakes Loop
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Chain Lakes Loop is a classic and beautiful summertime hike near Mount Baker. This alpine circuit offers massive mountain and lake views, summer wildflowers, and blueberries to boot.
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Route Description for Chain Lakes Loop
Chain Lakes Loop can be accessed via three parking areas, the two most popular being Heather Meadows Visitor Center and Artist Point. Because the trail can be hiked in either direction, hikers are presented with plenty of options before setting out. We suggest starting at Heather Meadows Visitor Center and hiking the trail clockwise.
From Heather Meadows Visitor Center, walk 0.1 mi east along the road to the signed Wild Goose Trail. Head south along the trail, climbing the steep steps. As you ascend you can admire the views of Mount Baker Highway, Bagley Lakes, and Mount Shuksan.
At 0.8 mi the trail crosses the highway before entering the Artist Point parking lot. Cross the parking area, picking up the trail again at the northwest corner of the parking lot.
The Chain Lakes Loop trail takes off west for a leisurely 1.0 mi from Artist Point. Cutting across a talus slope, the trail is rocky and completely exposed to the elements. Turn around for unobstructed views of Mount Shuksan. As you continue along, Mount Baker gets closer and closer.
At 2.1 mi, turn right at the signed intersection with the Ptarmigan Ridge trail. The Chain Lakes Loop trail climbs over the shoulder of Table Mountain. Excellent views of Mount Baker appear to the southwest. Reach the first of the Chain Lakes, Mazama Lake, at 2.8 mi. Then continue along to Iceberg Lake (named for the chunks of ice sometimes found floating in its waters). This is followed by Hayes Lake at 3.4 mi. Several side trails lead down to the lake’s shores, and backcountry camping is allowed in designated areas.
From Hayes Lake, begin climbing toward Herman’s Saddle. The trail gains about 600 ft of elevation here before topping out at 5,400 ft. From the top of the saddle, look southwest to see Mount Baker over Iceberg Lake. To the east, Mount Shuksan rises high with Bagley Lakes shimmering far below.
Descend 1,100 ft to Bagley Lakes before crossing an old stone bridge and climbing the steps back to Heather Meadows Visitor Center.
Hiking Trail Highlights
Located in some of Washington State’s most beautiful scenery, the Chain Lakes are the ideal destination for a stunning day hike. This series of lakes are connected by small creeks, creating a beautiful aquatic network through the mountains. The first of the Chain Lakes are the Mazama Lakes, two small lakes set against a lush forest background.
A short distance away, and linked by a small creek, Iceberg Lake is probably the prettiest of the Chain Lakes, with large chunks of ice dotting its beautiful turquoise waters. On the other side of the Iceberg Lake, you’ll catch a glimpse of Hayes Lake and Arbuthnot Lake, before looping back to Bagley Lakes, all connected via Bagley Creek. This waterway provides some fabulous views on the Chain Lakes Loop hike, as the lakes perfectly reflect the gorgeous peaks and forests in their still waters.
The name of Mount Shuksan derives from the Lummi word meaning ‘high peak’, and this magnificent mountain towers over the North Cascades National Park, standing in the tall shadow of Mount Baker. With its glaciated peak and distinctive three-sided peak known as Summit Pyramid, Mount Shuksan is one of the most popular (and frequently photographed) peaks in the Cascades Range.
One of the most popular views of Mount Shuksan is from Picture Lake, in the Mount Baker Ski Area. Here you’ll have a fantastic vista of the iconic mountain, perfectly reflected in the shimmering waters of the lake. The glaciers that crown its peak also feed a number of tall cascades, including the 665 m Sulphide Creek Falls, making this one of the most picturesque mountains in the Mount Baker and North Cascades region.
Insider Hints for Chain Lakes Loop
- For an easier out-and-back hike, begin at Artist Point and follow the trail 2.4 mi to Hayes Lake. Turn around here for a 4.8 mi roundtrip hike with 750 ft of elevation gain (avoiding the climb up Wild Goose Trail and Herman’s Saddle).
- Stop at North Fork Brewery on the way back to Bellingham for fresh pints and exceptional pizza.
- You can also continue to the end of the road to begin your hike from Artist Point.
Getting to the Chain Lakes Loop Trailhead
To get to the Chain Lakes Loop trailhead from Glacier, drive 22.0 mi east on Mount Baker Highway to the parking lot signed for Austin Pass Picnic Area (Heather Meadows Visitor Center) between mileposts 55 and 56. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for this hike.
Chain Lakes Loop Elevation Graph
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Chain Lakes Loop Reviews
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