Pacific Northwest Region Viewing Area

LOCATION and PHOTOS

Mt. Baker from Skyline Divide.
Mt. Baker from Skyline Divide. Photo by Ann Risvold.

Flowers and trees through the mist on Skyline Divide.
Flowers and trees through the mist on Skyline Divide. Photo by Barb Richey.

Penstemon davidsonii.
Penstemon davidsonii. Photo by Ben Legler.

Skyline Divide

Forest: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

District: Mt. Baker Ranger District

Description: Skyline Divide is located on the northwest side of Mt. Baker, within the Mt. Baker Wilderness Area. After a steady two mile climb through trees, a large lush flower field is entered with dramatic views of Mt. Baker’s summit and glaciers. Views are magnificent in all directions, including north into Canada, east into North Cascades National Park, and west to Puget Sound. The peak season for wildflowers (and insects) is July and August. Depending on winter snow fall, the area is open starting in June or July and is snowed in again typically in November. This is one of the more popular hikes on the District with very heavy use of approximately 4,000-5,000 visitors per season. Because of this, visitors are asked to leave no trace of their visit. Party size is limited to 12. The trail is open to stock use from August 1st to October 31st. Dogs need to be under leash or voice control at all times. Overnight visitors should use established campsites located along the ridge. No fires are allowed. No toilet facilities are available, so please dispose of waste properly. Though rugged enough to withstand severe winter conditions, subalpine plants are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance. To prevent damage to the fragile vegetation along Skyline Divide, visitors are urged to always stay on the designated maintained trail, and travel, camp, and take breaks on durable surfaces such as rocks or snow.

Viewing Information: The first two miles of the hike are through a forest of Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis), western and mountain hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla and T. mertensiana), and western redcedar and Alaska yellowcedar (Thuja plicata and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). Upon entering the meadows, a profusion of plant species is encountered. In the early spring, glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) push through the late snows. Woolly, rosy, umber, and alpine pussytoes can be found (Antennaria lanata, A. microphylla, A. umbrinella, and A. alpina). Heathers include white (Cassiope mertensiana), red (Phyllodoce empetriformis), yellow (P. glandulifora), and hybrid (P. intermedia). The sedge family is represented by Merten’s sedge, black alpine sedge, and showy sedge (Carex mertensii, C. nigricans, and C. spectabilis). Paint brush, monkey flowers, and penstemons wave in the high alpine breezes (Castilleja miniata, C. parviflora albida, C. rupicola, Mimulus guttatus, M. lewisii, and Penstemon davidsonii). Settled in among the rock crevices are stonecrops (Sedum lanceolatum, S. triangularis) and phlox (Pholix diffusa). There are many more species on site.

Safety First: Skyline Divide is at an elevation of approximately 6,000 feet so weather can be cold and wet any time of the year. Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and bring the 10 Essentials. Bring drinking water as there is none available along the trail after early summer. The access road and trail are subject to frequent flooding damage, so call ahead to verify the area is open. Contact either the Mt. Baker Ranger District at 360-856-5700 or the Glacier Public Service Center (from mid-May through September) at 360-599-2714.

Directions: From the city of Bellingham, Washington, on Interstate 5, take Exit 255 (State Route 542) and drive east on SR 542 to the town of Glacier where the Glacier Public Service Center is located. From the Service Center, drive east on SR 542 approximately 1 mile to Forest Road #39. Turn right onto Road #39 and immediately left onto Forest Road #37. Follow Road #37 for approximately 12.7 miles to the Skyline Divide Trailhead, elevation 4,400 feet. A Northwest Forest Pass is required when visiting this area. Federal Golden Passports are also honored.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mt. Baker Ranger District.

Closest Town: Glacier, Washington.