Mt. Baker Highway, east of Glacier
The trail to the old fire lookout site on the east shoulder of Church Mountain is one of the most popular hikes accessible from the Mount Baker Highway. Beginning on an old logging road at 2400 ft of elevation, the trail switchbacks through forests that become older the higher you hike. After breaking out above treeline, you cross a large open basin and begin climbing steep ridges and even steeper slopes. The trail makes a final short high stepping climb up to the rocky platform that once held the fire lookout.
From this 6,000 ft vantage point, stunning views include Mt. Baker and the Black Buttes, peaks of the Canadian Coast Range, and sometimes even Mt. Rainier. Below are the idyllic looking Kidney Lakes named for their obvious shape and striking in the contrast of their vivid blue with the green heather, white snow or barren rock surrounding them. Training your binoculars on the higher rocky cliffs of Church Mt., you may be lucky enough to see a white puff ball or two moving about - Mountain Goats browsing in their high summer range.
Rountrip to Church Mountain is almost nine miles so plan on the trip taking at least six hours. Besides getting detailed trail information from various trail guides remember that snow can be encountered well into summer. Be sure to check on current trail conditions at the US Forest Service Station (open only in the summer) located just past the town of Glacier.
NOTE: Sometimes the gravel road to the trailhead is blocked where Fossil Creek flows across it. Though adding an extra mile of road walk, the creek deposits freshly released fossils on the roadway every year following the strong runoff from mountain snow melt. Numerous seashells and an occasional trilobite may be seen.
Remember, trails such as Church Mountain deliver you into wilderness and the Northwest's changeable and challenging weather. Bears as well as cougars live here, and storms strong enough to blow the fire lookout off its site can spring up suddenly. So be prepared and be cautious while enjoying this beautiful and still wild area.
On State Highway 542 (Sunset Drive in Bellingham) go east, nearly 6 miles past the town of Glacier. The turnoff for East Church Road # 3040 is on the left. Drive 2.5 miles up the gravel road to the trailhead.
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San Juan Islands