Oyster Dome Loop

A weekend in February with sun and highs in the low 50s. Not a time to stay home. Saturday we skied up to Windy Pass near Snoqualmie Pass then snowshoed to Nordic pass and Radio Peak. 13 miles round trip. For Sunday I wanted somewhere off I-90 without snow and with some good views. I also planned to be home in time for the Super Bowl at 3:30. Another winter visit to Blanchard Hill and Oyster Dome was in order. I was on my way by a little after 7:00 am heading north. It's 71 miles to the Alger exit and 3.4 more miles to the upper trailhead off Barrel Springs Road. Left off the exit for .70 miles then left again on Barrel Springs for .60 miles more. A right turn for 201 more miles to the upper trailhead. There was one other car there when I arrived just after 8:30 am. It was cold but sunny and warmed rapidly.

I chose to go counter clockwise. I continued up the road, almost immediately going around the gate. half a mile up the road at the old gravel pit I found a gap in the trees providing views out to the east. Farms below and Mt. Baker in all it's snowy glory. I have stopped to take photos here on most trips but had never seen mt. Baker. A clear day at last. At 1.1 miles from the gate I reached the Alternate Incline Trail. The trail is in fine condition. Although we had snow and wind just a few weeks ago there were no trees down across the trail on my whole 10 mile journey. Some signs or recent clearing of branches off the trail.

At the junction with the Lizard Lake trail  there was still some lingering snow in the clearings. Little if any on the trail. I did smell smoke before the junction. As I expected there were campers at Lizard Lake with a big fire going. The lake is frozen over. Interesting to see the many stumps sticking through the ice. Next I found the start of the unmarked trail over to Lily Lake. This trail did have some snow on it but there were some footprints making it easy to follow the route. I soon turned right and uphill on the trail to North Butte. I had heard of a view point of Mt Baker and found it on my last visit. Unfortunately there was no view through all the clouds. I wanted to check out the view on a clear day.

Just before the top I turned into the forest and soon reached the viewpoint at the top of a cliff. Wow! a very nice look at Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters. The view is between several big trees but it's not too bad. It was a bit chilly but the sun allowed me to keep my jacket in my pack. I then headed over to the big rock at the summit which provided a look at the back of Oyster Dome and a look out to salt water. A very nice view and never crowded.

I dropped back down the trail and continued to Lily Lake. Like Lizard, it too was frozen over.  Some nice views of the lake from the outlet campsites. It was now 11:10 am. After 2 1/2 hours of hiking I had seen just one person far across Lizard Lake. Down near the junction with the trail to Oyster Dome I passed the old site of a big beaver dam. It was in place on my first visit in 2005 with a small lake backed up behind it. On my next visit the dam had been dismantled probably by a DNR crew. Well, there were two big trees freshly cut down by beavers. Looks like they are back.

At the big skunk cabbage field I looked in vain for one early bird cabbage with at least a leaf opening up. Not a one. I few years back during a very mild winter I did see skunk cabbage in February. It is only .70 miles from the Lily Lake junction to Oyster Dome. I saw a group of hikers just before the main Oyster Dome trail junction. At the dome there were more then half a dozen folks enjoying the view. I had lunch and took photos. By the time I was ready to  leave there were 16 other folks there. It's never empty on a clear day, summer of winter. While sitting at the dome a small single engine plane buzzed us at a low elevation. I managed to get a few shots of the plane.

Heading down I passed a group coming up. That was it for people until within a mile of the end. As usual the crowds are on the Chuckanut Drive side of the mountain. Very few on the east side. I saw several more patches of snow but very little on the trail. I followed the trail, now the Pacific Northwest Trail, beyond the Lily Lake junction. At the Lily Lake Trail I turned right and began the long and gentle descent back to my car. As mentioned there was only one group on this trail then another at the very bottom. My speed picked up considerably and I was back at my car by 1:20. I went back up the road to the Mt. Backer viewpoint for an afternoon shot and to round my day up to 10 miles. There is only 1200' between the high and low points but with ups and downs it added up to 2000' of elevation gain.

I was on the road before 2:00 pm and home before the Super Bowl kick off. I really enjoy Blanchard Hill. Several frozen lakes, multiple summits with some great views, and except for Oyster Dome it is not at all crowded. A nice alternative to Tiger Mountain when I want a winter hike with dirt instead of snow. In a few months the trillium, violets, and skunk cabbage will be blooming and it will be a much different hiking experience.

New Map
Mt. Baker View
Baker Close Up
Logging Gear
Frozen Lizard Lake
Campfire Smoke
Boot Path To Lily Lake
Big Rocks
Baker From North Butte
Canadian Peaks
Twin Sisters
Salt Water
Oyster Dome
Arched Mossy Log
Nice Light On Lily Lake
Icy Lake
Reflection In Lily Lake
Looking Down Lake
Log In Lake
Beavers At Work
Oyster Dome Viewpoint
Olympic Mountains
Low Flying Plane
Growing Out Of Stump
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012