Silver Fir Campground


Every day Seasonal


The Silver Fir Campground is located on the last relatively level section of roadway before the Mt. Baker Highway begins its final steep twisty climb to its terminus at the Heather Meadows and Mt. Baker Ski areas. There is no closer established campground to this famous area making it popular with visitors wishing to spend a few days enjoying the spectacular mountain scenery and alpine setting. Its location on the banks of the North Fork of the Nooksack River is also exceptional. The bridge near the campground entrance is the first manmade structure that the river encounters since leaving its glacially fed headwaters in the remote and mysterious Nooksack Cirque nestled beneath the crashing rock and ice of Mt. Shuksan.

The campground is small and intimate but makes use of the river’s curves giving nearly all campers the feeling of their own individual riverside locations. Accessible toilets, picnic areas, drinking water and a shelter provide the basic camping amenities. Some of the sites are held for reservations while others remain open for drop-in camping. Often the hosting responsibilities for the campground are shared with the resident host of the Douglas Fir Campground (see article this website) so it may be beneficial to check on the camping status there or at the Glacier Ranger Station before making the drive up valley.

The name of the campground reflects the changing environment as you travel further up the Mt. Baker Highway. Now at nearly 2000 feet of elevation in a deep river valley, the plant community reflects the increasing mountainous influence. Many of the large trees in the campground and surrounding area are the Pacific Silver Fir, a native species. The bark of this tree is always easy to identify by the many blisters of resin that form over its surface. The undersides of the needles have a silvery color thus giving the tree its common name. The silver fir is primarily a mountain species and can be found locally to over 5,000 ft of elevation though becoming somewhat stunted and tortured looking at the higher elevations and in the more exposed alpine settings. Though of commercial value for lumber, the wood is not rot resistant and forests dominated by the silver fir do often have the magnificent snags and ancient trees associated with other common species of the Pacific Northwest.

The quiet forest and river setting of the campground hides nearly all evidence of its tumultuous recent past. Located not much more than a stone’s throw from this idyllic setting were located a number of mining communities housing and servicing literally thousands of gold seekers. Compare the 20 campsites of the campground with the more than 2,000 residents that once lived here. Despite the intensity of the search for gold and the establishment of alternate mining routes to more distant gold fields the great eruption of activity disappeared even more quickly than it began. The scavenging and reuse of anything of value and the rapid regeneration of the natural habitat quickly erased the ruins of this era. During the excavation and construction of this campsite a few artifacts were unearthed but today the most obvious remnants of this period can be found in the tracings of forest roads, the location of maintenance buildings, and the nearby mountain trails and parking lots.

While there are no trails located within the campground the surrounding area is rich with trails, viewpoints, and historic locations. Adjacent to the south side of the campground is the Anderson Creek Road. A pleasant walk or drive, it is named for the man who lived in a log cabin located in the center of what is now the Silver Fir Campground. Across the highway from the campground entrance a large parking lot marks a winter snowpark. Abandoned forest roads, cross country ski trails, a former campsite, and the remnant footprint of a gold mining community can offer interesting wanderings through the riverside forests as well as providing limited but dramatic mountain views. Back across the bridge, the Hannegan and the Twin Lakes (Swamp Creek) Roads both offer access to popular trails culminating in spectacular mountain scenery. Most of these locations will be accessed by driving but there are a few that you may decide to hike to. Use extreme caution when entering or crossing the highway by vehicle or by foot. The sight distance on this section of highway is poor and traffic, particularly coming down the mountain, is always very fast.

While the campground is only seasonally opened for camping typically from late May to late September, winter is also a popular time for visitors. Using the large snowpark lot across the highway (state snowpark permits may be required), snowshoers and cross country skiers enjoy the short riverside loops and convenient access. In the marginal seasons of spring and fall, birders frequently enjoy this location. Fewer human visitors often result in more wildlife sightings and seasonal nesting and territorial displays are especially desirable. During low water the banks of the river may provide track records of unseen wildlife activity but be careful, the waters are fresh from the glacier and run swift and very cold throughout the year.

For many drivers, especially in winter, the nearby snowpark is their welcomed destination. Beyond the campground, the Mt. Baker Highway climbs steeply with many twists and turns and becomes quite narrow in places during the winter snow season. In the spring, the entire area around the campground becomes part of the world famous Ski-to-Sea race. Runners, pounding their knees into jelly, dash down the paved highway all the way from the ski area and handoff to their road bicycle partners in front of the Kulshan Maintenance shed. Dependent on local snow conditions, it’s never guaranteed that this higher elevation campground will be open at that time.

Camping in summer, snow play in winter, wildlife viewing any time of the year, relatively easy driving access, the Silver Fir Campground offers visitors a wide variety of reasons to enjoy a stay from a few hours to a few days.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 6/2/2010


Silver Fir Campground is located about 13 miles east (up valley) from the town of Glacier on the Mt. Baker Highway (SR 542). Go past the chalet styled Kulshan Highway Maintenance Buildings and two Forest Road entrances on the left just before the highway curves sharply right and crosses a short bridge over the Nooksack River. The campground entrance is immediately on the right.


Picnic Tables | Restrooms


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