Chain Lakes Loop

Mt Baker
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Chain Lakes Loop

Distance: 6.2mi
Elevation: 1,804ft
Time: 4-6h

Difficulty Rating:

Chain Lakes Loop is a classic summertime hike near Mount Baker. This alpine circuit offers massive mountain and lake views, summer wildflowers, and blueberries to boot.

Getting there

From Glacier, drive 22mi 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.

About

When to do

Summer - Fall

Backcountry Campsites

Yes, at the Galena Chain Lakes

Toilets

Yes, at trailhead

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Circuit


Elevation


Detailed Description

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 0.1mi east along the road to the signed Wild Goose Trail. Head south along the trail, climbing the steep steps. As you climb you can admire the views of Mount Baker Highway, Bagley Lakes, and Mount Shuksan.

At 0.8mi 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 Trail takes off west for a leisurely mile 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 2.1mi, turn right at the signed intersection with Ptarmigan Ridge trail. The Chain Lakes trail climbs over Table Mountain’s shoulder. Excellent views of Mount Baker appear to the southwest. Reach the first of the Chain Lakes, Mazama Lake, at 2.8mi. 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 3.4mi. 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.

Insider Hints

  • For an easier out-and-back hike, begin at Artist Point and follow the trail 2.4mi to Hayes Lake. Turn around here for a 4.8mi 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.

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