Sumas Mountain: Challenging hike near border

Elevation gain: About 2,600 feet.

Round trip: Nine miles.

Difficulty: Strenuous.

Best time to hike: Almost year-round.

Highlights: Close to the Canadian border, Sumas Mountain is the last mountainous land mass in the northernmost contiguous United States. It is also the southern buttress of British Columbia's Fraser River Valley.

Maps: USGS Sumas Mountain and USGS Kendall.

Getting there: From Nooksack, head east on South Pass Road about 2.4 miles to Sealand Road. Take a right and drive about a third of a mile and park on the right shoulder, just beyond the last visible house on the left and 25 yards before a small creek. ("Private Property" and "No Trespassing" signs tell you where not to go.)

The first 200 yards of the trail, which starts on the left, goes along the south side of a barbed-wire fence and can be muddy. When the fence turns left, go right along a much better trail. After crossing Swift Creek once, the trail again approaches the creek. This time, head left and start climbing for about half a mile.

A broad flat bench, about 1.4 miles from the trailhead, offers relief; there is also an uninhabited cabin. Continue past the cabin and start climbing - the next two miles gain about 1,500 feet. On this stretch, the trail forks three times. Stay left each time.

A little past four miles, glimpses of sky begin showing through the trees. Urge your muscles a little farther to an open area with drop-offs on the north and east sides. This is the Northern Overlook.