Wow, if you are looking for a way to really test your body this trail is for you! According to Gaia, this was 2.88 miles from trailhead to top and the ascent was 3,136 feet. What that doesn’t tell you is about .88 of the trail is a gradual ascent, so you gain most of that in about 2 miles. Get ready to huff and puff on the way up, and possible blisters and jammed toes on the way down.
Having said that, this is really an amazing hike – the road to the trailhead is short, but there are a few really deep potholes to navigate past (a few are nearly 2 feet deep!). It’s sad that there isn’t funding to get these smoothed out, as it would likely only take 4-5 hours to fix them. Heck, I’m tempted to grab a shovel and do it myself!
The trail starts gradually over the first 2/3 of a mile or so and then the switchbacks start. There is a small stream before the switchbacks – if you are low on water fill up here, as there is little to no water the rest of the way. The switchbacks are steep and unrelenting – they will kick your butt! Pace yourself and take breaks – after a while the views start to open up, you’ll see the valley far below and the anticipation of getting to the top makes the last 1/2 mile go by quick.
Once you get above treeline it’s pretty mind-blowing – you can see everything all at once. Instead of taking the High Divide we took a right at the junction, heading up a steep knoll to the east, which opened up nearly 360 views – Mt Larrabee, Yellow Aster Butte, Goat Mountain, Shuksan and of course Mt Baker. You’d be hard pressed to find a better lunch spot – then again, any of the trails in that area are pretty amazing.
While the reward was worth the steep hike up, I may put off a return trip – you can get a similar view with the Yellow Aster Butte trail, and it’s definitely a more “pleasant” hike. Still, I’m glad to have finally done the Welcome Pass trail, and doing it with good friends and trail beers at the top, it made for quite a day!