An enjoyable family hike along the Baker River is accessible for the first time this summer.
Road construction had closed the trailheads near the end of Baker Lake Road until last week, U.S. Forest Service officials said.
That means the family-friendly Baker River Trail is open again, offering a leisurely walk past old-growth cedars draped in moss, and stunning views of the rushing blue-green river and surrounding wooded mountainsides.
It's about a five-mile round trip with between 200 and 400 feet of elevation gain, so the hike is easy for people of all abilities and especially for families with small children. The first half-mile or so of the trail is wide and flat enough to be wheelchair accessible in good weather.
Plus, it's an out-and-back route, so you can simply turn around at any point if you or the youngsters get tired.
Because of the recent construction, there were no current trail reports early this week at the Forest Service office in Sedro-Woolley. But a blog post at the Washington Trails Association in mid-June said the trail was in good condition with no obstacles and that creek crossings were easy. Check wta.org for further updates or call the Forest Service at 360-856-5700.
Baker River Trail starts from a parking area at the end of Baker Lake Road, where facilities are limited to pit toilets. A Northwest Forest Pass or day-use permit is required, available from the Forest Service office on Highway 20 in Sedro-Woolley.
Follow the trailhead to the left, and within a half-mile you'll reach a suspension footbridge. Walk to the center to enjoy a view of the mountains, but return to the trail and continue upriver.
On your way, you'll see towering trees, some five feet across, and pass magical hollows that kids will find perfect for exploring.
Breaks in the trees offer views of ridge tops, some with lingering snowpack.
Trail's end, at the confluence of the Baker River and Sulphide Creek, offers a wondrous look at the glaciers high on Mount Shuksan. It's these icepacks that supply the runoff for surrounding rivers and streams. Campsites at Sulphide Creek require a permit.
On your return trip, the rocky bars below the footbridge are wonderful for sunning near the river on a warm day.
Also on your return, be sure to stop at the turnout on Baker Lake Road near Boulder Creek, where there's a jaw-dropping glimpse of Mount Baker.
To reach the Baker River Trail, take Interstate 5 south to Highway 20, the north Cascades Highway. Go east to just past milepost 82, turning left (north) onto Baker Lake Road. Continue for 25 miles to the road's end (it's a dirt road for the last three miles).
SHADOW OF THE SENTINELS
If this is your first trip into the North Cascades or the Mount Baker wilderness areas - and especially if you are traveling with small children - be sure to stop at the Shadow of the Sentinels interpretive walk along Baker Lake Road. It's a half-mile loop on a boardwalk with informational placards that describe native flora and fauna and put the region into historical context. You'll also see massive Douglas firs that are several hundred years old and are too big to wrap your arms around.
Trailhead is at a turnoff on Baker Lake Road, about 141/2 miles north of Highway 20. There's a toilet, but no other facilities.
ROBERT MITTENDORF is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at email@example.com.