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Hike of the week: Baker River Trail to Sulphide Creek

Hike description: This northern section of the Baker Lake Trail is a popular trail during the balmier summer months, as the size of the parking lot suggests.

The crowds thin out as the temperature drops and the precipitation increases.

On a clear day, the drive in will convince you that you are in the right place; the views of Mounts Shuksan and Baker above are stunning.

When you get to the parking lot, the sight of the lake stretching out in front of you will seem like icing on the cake.

The first half-mile of the trail – also the Baker Lake Trail – is a wide path along the river taking you away from the lake. When the Baker Lake Trail heads off to the right at the junction you will keep going straight.

You might need to check out the suspension bridge before continuing.

The trail takes you through forest and to an open flat with views of the river as well as up to the mountain peaks. Take your time and savor the vistas.

At 1.2 miles from the trailhead the trail crosses Lake Creek, coming down from Shuksan Lake above.

The flood of 2006 shifted the log bridge a bit so that you will need to pick your way across the creek.

Continuing on, the trail takes you to the North Cascade National Park boundary.

If you have your pet with you, this is your turn-around point. If there are no pets in the party, you can continue on for another 0.7 mile to the trail end at Sulphide Creek.

Whether you are able to go into the national park or stop outside of it, you can find a spot down by the river for lunch against the backdrop of the babbling brook.

You will retrace your steps back to the trailhead, admiring the vistas from a different perspective.

Directions: The trailhead is at the east end of Baker Lake which is west of the town of Concrete. Drive state Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, to Baker Lake Road, between mileposts 82 and 83. Turn north on Baker Lake Road and drive 26 miles to the trailhead. Note that at 23 miles the pavement ends when the road turns into Forest Road 11.

Difficulty rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round trip: 5

Elevation: 300 feet

Best time of year: Year-round

Map: Green Trails Lake Shannon No. 46 and Mount Shuksan No. 14

Pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Also: Picnic tables, vault toilet and campsites are at the trailhead. Always be prepared for the weather you expect – rain gear and a pad to sit on at lunch will keep you dry and cozy.

Always pack out everything you take in and be prepared to pick up the bits of trash that someone else left behind.

Pets are only welcome on the first 1.5 miles of the trail but should be leashed or otherwise under close control and scooped-up after.

Around 1.5 miles, the trail crosses from national forest into the North Cascades National Park where pets are not permitted. Pet regulations can be confusing because of the unique geography of the North Cascades National Park and the proximity of neighboring national forests and national recreation areas.

Be sure to check before heading out for the day with your pets in tow.

Information: www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs; Mount Baker Ranger District, 810 state Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, 360-856-5700; “Day Hiking North Cascades,” Mountaineers Books.

Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.theolympian.com/hiking.

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