Solo Overnighter To Lake Ann / Mt. Shuksan

I was finally able to do a Mt Baker hike that I’ve always wanted to do – the Lake Ann/Mt Shuksan trail. It’s just over 4 miles each way from Artist Point, which you start by losing about 1000 feet of elevation in a mile, then leveling out for 2 miles in a beautiful creek meadow, before finishing with a 1500 foot or so climb in the last mile through boulder fields and a small patch of snow. Found a great camping spot up an obscure trail above Lake Ann, with great views of Mt Baker on one side and Mt Shuksan on the other.

I got a late start, hitting the trail at about 5:30 pm – it was a bit of a race to get to the end, since it’s getting dark around 8pm or so this time of year. I figured I could do 2 miles/hour, which would leave me about 30 minutes of light to set up camp at the end. Thankfully, that’s exactly the way things worked out. I arrived at the ridge above Lake Ann right at 7:30 and had a choice to make. I saw a few tents around the lake (but just a few – this was a Tuesday evening), but I had read reports saying that above the ridge (just north of the lake) there were some great campsites with a view of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan and the lake. There wasn’t much of a trail, but after 50 yards or so I did see a faint path up towards the campsites. I passed one level site and took the second one, which did have a great view. The next morning I explored a bit and found even better sites further up.

After a great night of sleep I woke to a sunny morning with the occasional sound of crashing rock on the steep face of Mt. Shuksan. After coffee and breakfast I packed up and went down to the lake to check out the view from there, and walked a 1/4 mile or so down the climbers trail towards Mt. Shuksan and Curtis Glacier. While the trail does go all the way to the glacier, from reports I’ve seen it’s steep and narrow, with a washed out area towards the end. I didn’t have time to go all the way this time, but hope to give it a shot sometime in the future.

The hike back was pretty uneventful – it was a warm day but my pack was lighter so it wasn’t bad. There were tons of people on the way up though – even though it was a Wednesday, the parking lot was full by the time I got back. Overall this hike did not disappoint, and was maybe slightly more difficult than I thought it would be.

Chain Lakes Overnighter

We (3 teens and I) tried to make it up to Twin Lakes, but between the heat, smoke and altitude our 4wd vehicle didn’t make it, so we came back down and decided to head up to Heather Meadows for an overnighter. Reading the regulations, there is no camping within the Heather Meadows area, so we tried to make it to the campsites at Chain Lakes, but if snow didn’t allow for it, our backup plan was to find a spot outside the area, but well away from the lakes.

The initial part of the hike was great – fairly level with just occasional, short stretches of snow to cross. The smoke was present, but gave the area a cool, orangey hue (I’d obviously prefer there not to be smoke though). Having not done this trail before, I thought it’d be fairly straightforward, and perhaps once the snow melts it will be, but once the trail started going uphill things got a little interesting. Patches of snow got larger, and about halfway up some routefinding was necessary. The slope wasn’t great, so we were able to make it up with just hiking boots (for me), and tennis shoes/runners with the kids, but poles and microspikes would have been handy. We never really crossed snow where a fall would have been dangerous, but still, for some it’s probably a bit too much for a couple more weeks.

We made it up to the top of the ridge separating Bagley & Iceberg/Hayes Lakes, but were surprised and disappointed to see it was all snow from there down to the campsites. We found flat spots in the snow nearby to camp. Due to the smoke we couldn’t even see Baker (it eventually appeared in the middle of the night). Shuksan was hard to see in the distance. The bugs were out of control, biting flies and mosquitoes, and in the morning I woke up to the sound of about 20 flies and bees flying and buzzing between my tent and rainfly.

Overall the trip was a success, but I want to try to make it to the Chain Lakes campsites in a few weeks, and also want to try the Twin Lakes area again (next time I’ll park at the Yellow Astor Butte trailhead and hike up though!)