I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and as a child, we had an old trailer in a campground that rests at the foot of Mt. Baker, a snow-peaked mountain filled with ski runs and hiking trails near Bellingham, WA (about 2 hours north of Seattle). So many fond memories grew from that experience of spending time in the woods and I believe my love for the outdoors sprouted a little more each time we visited. Looking for tadpoles in the lake, freely riding our bikes without the watchful eye of a parent, swimming in a pool that sits in a valley surrounded by forests and rolling mountainsides, and walking through trails alongside a raging river in the rainforest that identifies this region. A few years back, I decided I wanted my children to have that same experience, so we purchased a lot in the same development, complete with an old trailer. We have been coming each summer ever since and my children have grown to love this area as much as I do.
Recently, I came to the realization that while we have explored many highlights of the area, we have all but left the hiking untouched. Maybe it was because the kids were so young, or maybe we were content just doing the same things I did as a child. But now, we are ready to explore – ready to hike and see the sights beyond the campground.
Today, we wanted to take the whole gang (all five kids, ranging in age, ability, and most of all interest, from 8 – 15) so we opted for a short hike (some are not as outdoorsy as others!) with a big view. Armed with the Falcon Guide to Mt. Baker-Mt. Shuksan Area in hand, we opted for what was supposed to be a 1 mile out-and-back to Nooksack Falls. As it turns out, unless you park on the road and walk down to the parking area, there was only about 100 yards of actual trail to “hike”! Nonetheless, the views were spectacular and the rush of water was exhilarating to watch as it threw unsuspecting logs down the falls with the twitch of its finger.
For those who want a bit more hiking bang for their buck here, there is a forest road beyond the viewing bridge. According to the Sheriff who was at the falls when we visited, this road makes a steady, easy climb for about 10 miles, leading to breathtaking views of Mt. Baker. The forest road is a wide gravelled road, which makes for an easy hike suitable for those who don’t like rough terrain.
Official Website: Mount Baker
Location: Mount Baker Highway, Mile Post 40.5 (Off of well-marked Wells Creek Rd./Forest Service Rd. 33)
Kid Friendly? Very! Just watch the young ones around the bridge. The walk to the fenced viewing area is very easy.
Fido Friendly? Dogs allowed on leash.
Cost: Forest Pass recommended so you can continue on the 542 and make viewing stops.
Trailhead Features: Parking lot with ample spaces, an ADA accessible bridge to view the top of the falls, well-marked signs to the trail, a brief history of the falls and its connection to hydro electricity in the area, and MANY signs advising viewers to beware and stay off the falls.
The Trail: This “trail” is only about 100 yards and takes you to a fenced viewing area. Forest Rd 33 offers a longer option (about 10 miles to the end) of winding forest road that meanders through moss-covered trees.
At the trailhead there are a few interpretive/historical signs.
The trailhead is well marked by signs and ample warnings of the fate that looms for those who cross the safety barriers.
The entrance to the “trail” (perhaps the trail was once longer, but now it is a 100 yard walk to the overlook).
The rushing Nooksack River and Nooksack Falls:
“The Nut” enjoying the view.
From the parking lot, walk left (away from the trailhead) to get an overhead view of the raging river below. Watch on as logs race down the river, get swept into whirlpools, then tossed over the falls with a flick of ther river’s tongue. From this point, you can walk through the gate and up the service road for 10+ miles under dense rainforest.
Too short for your liking? After viewing the falls, continue up the 542 and stop at the many lookouts. Or, drive all the way up Mt. Baker to Artist Point for spectacular views, multiple hiking options, and even summer-time sledding!