Skyline Divide is a rolling ridgeline hike that offers breathtaking panoramic views from Shuksan to Baker. Listen out for the whistling marmots, and be prepared for one of the best seasonal wildflower shows around. This is such a great way to spend a sunny summer day with friends. Read the full guide to Skyline Divide.
To get to the Skyline Divide trailhead, take Mount Baker Highway east from Glacier for 1.0mi to milepost 34. Turn right on FR-39 (Glacier Creek Road). Follow signs to the Skyline Divide Trail, turning left on FR-37. Go for 12.9mi to the trailhead. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
|When to do|
July to October
Yes, at trailhead
Out and back
Skyline Divide Trail Description
Gaining roughly 1500ft in the first 2.1mi, the Skyline Divide trail starts out steep. A hemlock forest provides plenty of shelter from the elements as the trail switchbacks up to the ridge. After 2.0mi, walk out of the woods into an alpine wonderland. Here, at 5800ft above sea level, views of Mount Baker, Shuksan and many more will take your breath away. This is a great turnaround point for those seeking a short hike. A nearby camping area to the north (left) provides an easy backpacking destination.
If you’re seeking the full experience of the Skyline Divide, wander south along the ridge, through wildflower meadows and towards Mount Baker. Hang a right at 2.5mi to avoid an unnecessarily steep climb. The trail rolls up and down, over high knolls to a junction marked by cairns at 3.2mi. The way left loses some elevation through talus slopes and meadows for about 1.0mi to the end of the trail. Camping here, near Deadhorse Creek, is a great way to spend the night stargazing.
The trail to the right climbs steeply towards Chowder Ridge. Follow it a short distance to reach a relatively flat knoll-shoulder at 3.5mi and 6200ft. It’s a good place to have lunch and turn around. Or, you can continue even further along the ridge, ending atop a 6563ft knoll – Skyline Divide’s highest point and final campsite at 4.5mi.
Skyline Divide Trail Camping
The Skyline Divide Trail offers several possibilities for camping, whether you’re looking to transform this hike into an easy backpacking trip, or simply looking for the best place to go stargazing in the Mount Baker Wilderness.
One of the most popular sites is the Douglas Fir Campground, situated on the banks of North Fork Nooksack River in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This is an excellent campground that offers good access to many of the hiking trails in the North Cascades. The site is equipped with toilets, drinking water, campfire rings, and tent pads.
You’ll also find some good places for camping near Deadhorse Creek, just before Chowder Ridge, located in the valley between the Skyline and Cougar Divides. Note that campfires are not permitted.
Views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan
The Skyline Divide Trail is known for its marvelous views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, and these two impressive mountains certainly don’t disappoint. The first peak to come into view is Mount Baker, its conical, snow-capped summit rising up ahead of you as you hike. Looking eastward, the distinctive crags of Mount Shuksan will come into view, foregrounded by lush, green forest and flanked by the characteristic white-flecked crags of this remarkable region.
Once you’re above the treeline, the undulating trail offers many impressive photo opportunities, and an awesome panorama that takes in Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, and the many other peaks that make up the North Cascades. This is an unforgettable day out in Washington State.
The dazzling display of wildflowers on the Skyline Divide Trail will take your breath away. Rising above the treeline, you’ll step into a world of color that is perfectly offset by the green meadows, show-capped peaks and glistening glaciers that surround you. Look out for colorful mountain heather, purple littleflower penstemon, sitka valerian with its tight, intricate buds, yellow glacier lilies, sulfur buckwheat, dwarf lupine and spearleaf stonecrop. The sheer diversity of the world at your feet is truly remarkable.
What’s more, these beautiful flowers sustain an important population of insects, and you can expect to see many darting dragonflies and wonderful butterflies fluttering from plant to plant, including the stunning anicia checkerspot and anise swallowtail. These wildflower meadows are a real highlight of any trip to the Skyline Divide Trail.
Choose the length of your hike at Skyline Divide. Trips here can range from 4.0mi-9.0mi round trip, with optional side trails to explore. Turning around at 3.5mi makes for a great 7.0mi roundtrip day hike.
Bring plenty of water. There are no water sources on the ridge.
Please respect the fragile meadows by only camping in established campsites.
Weather changes quickly above 6000ft - even during summer. Be prepared and bring plenty of layers.
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