Pine and Cedar Lakes: Steep trail offers view, exercise

Elevation gain: 1,300 feet.

Round trip: 4 to 6 miles.

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. The trail is in good condition, but the climb is steep.

Best times to hike: Year-round.

Highlights: The steep climb makes a great workout for those dreaming of summer ascents in the Cascades or victory in the downhill ski and snowboard leg of the Ski to Sea race. Lookouts offer great views overlooking Bellingham and north Whatcom County and the San Juan Islands.

Pine and Cedar lakes are two tree-lined, peaceful ponds, which can't help but lower your stress level, particularly if you take a dip there in the summer. Check out the rock formations near Cedar Lake.

Maps: Rex N. Brainard's Chuckanut Mountains map, Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department's trail map. Local Knowledge Chuckanut Map.

Getting there: Signed trailhead is on the south side of Old Samish Highway, about two miles east of Chuckanut Drive. Trail starts out steep for the first 1½ miles, then levels out just before Cedar Lake.

Follow sign to the left for Cedar Lake; go straight ½-mile for Pine Lake. Cedar Lake is about 200 yards away and another 100 feet down. A ¾-mile trail loops around the lake, with another trail at the lake's west end leading to sweeping viewpoints looking north and west.

Less-visited Pine Lake doesn't have a loop trail but features an island-like peninsula perfect for a picnic. Camping is allowed at both lakes.

The trail connects with the Hemlock Trail, which goes past Raptor Ridge and a lovely view at Huckleberry Point before descending to the North Lost Lake Trail in the west.