Raptor Ridge: A long climb to see birds of prey

Elevation gain: 1,600 feet.

Round trip: 5-7 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate. It's a long climb to get to the ridge.

Best times to hike: Year-round.

Users: Foot traffic only. The trail is not suitable for bikes, horses or wheelchairs.

Highlights: If you're itching for the snow to melt off the mountain meadows, this is a good way to let off steam and build up your legs. The Raptor Ridge Trail is a spur off the Hemlock Trail. Take a volunteer-built boardwalk, bridges and stone steps past mossy trees and big sandstone boulders to a sandstone bluff, which offers views of Mount Rainier, Chuckanut Ridge and Blanchard Mountain. Vultures, eagles and hawks can sometimes be glimpsed circling in the updrafts.

Maps: Rex N. Brainard's Chuckanut Mountains map.

Getting there: The shortest way is from the trailhead for Pine and Cedar lakes on the south side of Old Samish Highway, about two miles east of Chuckanut Drive. You start on the trail to Pine and Cedar lakes, which rises steeply through second-growth forest. At an upended gnarled stump, take a right turn onto the Hemlock Trail, which goes past the remains of a 1920s logging operation.

A longer alternative route starts at the Interurban Trail in Arroyo Park on Old Samish Highway just east of Chuckanut Drive. After crossing the creek and climbing out of the gully turn right onto the Lost Lake Trail. From the Lost Lake Trail turn right again onto the Hemlock Trail, which will climb up to Raptor Ridge.

Source: "Hiking Whatcom County" by Ken Wilcox, third edition, second printing, Northwest Wild Books.