& Cedar Lakes - Padilla Bay
a couple hikes in the snow I was ready for some bare dirt. With snow
most everywhere above about 1400' I wanted a low start. Gwen joined me
for a trip up to near Bellingham. This was my first time on this trail.
I did hike the north end of Chuckanut Mountain for the first
time last year. That trip was a little west of this one. We headed
north up I-5 taking Exit 246. A right turn across the freeway and
another right turn onto Old Samish Road. In about three miles we found
the well marked trailhead on the left side. The roads off the freeway
were icy. Another day starting below freezing. At least this one warmed
up a bit. There were half a dozen cars in the 300' elevation lot. We
packed up and were on the trail at about 9:15 am.
The first thing to notice on this old road turned trail is that it is
steep. Steeper than most roads. A good way to warm up on a cold
morning. Also a good training grade. It is only 2 miles to Pine Lake
but it does start steep. We were passed by several hikers out for a
fast workout. We had all day to explore and were not in such a hurry.
As I found on last year's hike here the junctions are well marked. With
a map and the signs we had no problem navigating. Several logs had
fallen across the trail recently and had all been cut out. There were
signs of a good bit of recent trail work too.
At about 1000' we started to see icy sections of trail. To be safe we
put on microspikes. The icy spots were mixed with more bare trail. Soon
after the junction with the Hemlock Trail we came to an unmarked
junction. Nearly flat to the lake or uphill to a viewpoint shown on the
map and then down to the lake. We chose to head up. A little winding
around in forest and we came to the viewpoint. Quite a good look east
to Mt. Baker. It was a clear day and the snow cloaked volcano looked
good. Next we dropped down to Pine Lake. The lake was frozen over. The
trail around the lake was quite icy. In a lot of places it was on
narrow raised boards. Boards covered with frozen snow. We had taken off
the spikes earlier and stying upright was a challenge. Spots were muddy
alongside the boardwalk too. Fun stuff.
At the back of the lake we found another hiker and then a few more. It
was never crowded but not empty either. There are campsites at both
Pine and Cedar Lakes though they are under some icy snow at this time.
We took the second trail leaving the lake. Both of them climb up a
short way to the main trail from our trailhead. A left turn and we were
on our way to Cedar Lake. There was a little logging hardware left
including a big cable. Though it was sunny above we were still in cold
dark forest. Arriving at Cedar Lake we could see some folks across the
water in the sunshine. That sounded like a good idea. It was so icy
along the lake that we had to put on the microspikes once again. The
icy raised boards were not so bad with traction.
We worked our way around to the other side and into a little sunshine.
Very nice. We quickly found out that this was a peninsula sticking out
into the lake. More lake was on the other side. Not wanted to bother
the folks we had seen at the end of the peninsula, we stopped short and
had lunch. Though we had only come about 2.8 miles, it was already
about 11:40 am. Time for lunch. When the sun left the end of the
peninsula the other group headed back. We took a quick look. It was a
great spot in the sun. Oh well... time to head back. This time we
stayed on the main trail rather than going around Pine Lake again.
Shorter, less elevation gain, and just plain faster. The first part
below Pine Lake is nicely switchbacking trail and goes fast. Then you
get back on the steeper road section and it is a little slower. Even
so, we were back at the trailhead by 1:20 pm. There are a lot of
connecting trails on Chuckanut Mountain. Enough to make a
dizzying route of loops and figure eight routes. A good place to hike
when winter snow gets old in the mountains.
Since it was still early, Gwen suggested one more stop for a hike on
the way back. We headed south on I-5 then went west towards salt water.
Just south of Bayview is the parking lot for the Padilla Bay Trail. Yet
another trail I had not yet hiked. Time to knock off two first time
trails in one day. The lot was crowded and folks were coming and going.
A short walk along the main road then across and onto the unpaved
trail. This route is right along the waters of Padilla Bay.
On the left as we walked south were fields and sloughs. It
did not take long for Gwen to see a Great Blue Heron. Soon we saw
another. In a big tree was a juvenile eagle. Various gulls and other
birds flew overhead. In the distance were the Olympic Mountains and
smoke stacks from the oil refineries. The trail has distance markers
most every 1/8 of a mile.
To the east we could see Mt. Baker and then Whitehorse and
Three Fingers. Lots of snow on all the peaks. We passed a number of
people and nearly as many dogs out for a walk. We went about 1 3/4
miles before we turned around. Highway 20 was not far ahead of us at
the turnaround point. Judging by the mileage numbers on both sides of
the signs, the trail is about 2 1/8 miles in length. After about 5.5
miles to the lakes the Padilla Bay Trail added another 3.5 miles. Nine
miles all together with all the elevation gain being on the first
trail. I was even able to get home before dark. Hard to do this time of
year when dark is only at 5:00 pm.
This turned out to be a fun day. Two new trails and two new lakes to
visit. We did not entirely avoid the snow and ice but by topping out at
only 1830' so near salt water it was minimal. Last weekend we started
hiking/snowshoeing at 2 degrees and finished at 10 degrees. It was nice
to start near freezing and then be above it for most of the day. After
two very mild winters we are back to a more normal one. It was nice to
have a sunny day with minimal snow and cold. I still have some more
exploring to do on Chuckanut Mountain and will be back a time or two
Click on thumbnails to get
Recent Trail Work
Mt. Baker Viewpoint
Not Zoomed Baker
Sunny Pine Lake
Sun Shines On Pine Lake
Around The Lake
Nearing Cedar Lake
Cedar Lake Peninsula
Padilla Bay Trail
Great Blue Heron
White Horse Mountain
Eagle In A Tree
Gwen Makes A Point