Church Mountain: Demanding hike to the 'steeple'

The hike up the Church Mountain trail is demanding but worth the effort.

Elevation gain: 3,800 feet.

Round trip: 8½ miles.

Difficulty: Strenuous.

Best times to hike: July through October.

Current conditions: Open, but watch the weather forecasts for early snowfall.

Parking: Northwest Forest Pass required.

Highlights: Drivers on the Mount Baker Highway east of Glacier first encounter Church Mountain as a giant evergreen wall straight ahead, topped with a prominent rock "steeple."

Hikers need to work hard on this trail. It gains 1,000 feet in elevation per mile, and there's no view for the first three miles.

After that, the woods begin to clear and provide spectacular views of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan and other gleaming peaks.

Maps: Green Trails No. 13 Mount Baker, Trails Illustrated North Cascades National Park complex. TOPO! North Cascades, Mount Baker and Surrounding Wilderness Areas.

Getting there: Heading east on the Mount Baker Highway, turn left onto Church Mountain Road (Road 3040) about 5.1 miles east of the Glacier Public Service Center. Drive 2.6 miles to the trailhead at an elevation of 2,000 feet.

Source: "Hiking Whatcom County," by Ken Wilcox, "100 Hikes in Washington's North Cascades National Park Region," by Ira Spring & Harvey Manning.