The 9-mile (roundtrip) trail to Elbow Lake is a local favorite. Located away from better known and more popular trails, hikers often share the Old Growth Forest with only the chirping birds, budding flowers and an occasional hopping toad. The low elevation trailhead (2000 ft) is easily accessible most of the year. Climbing up through the drainage of "The Green" (Creek) the peek-a-boo views of the Twin Sisters Mountain Range are limited though that much more special. Winter snows often provide fine forest snowshoeing and in the Spring the lower portions of the trail melt out early. Upon reaching the lake, the new trail (which may have snow patches into early summer), can be found up and to the right of the natural opening of Elbow Lake.
Exploring along the lake trail provides intimate views of the plants and animals enjoying this forest setting. There are some primitive camp sites above Elbow Lake but during the summer the insects rule. Though Elbow and adjacent Doreen Lake appear to be in a low valley, they are in fact at the crest of the Sisters Divide. The stream you passed on your hike up to the lake is flowing back into the Middle Fork while the stream out of Doreen Lake flows into the South Fork of the Nooksack.
Summer conditions and scheduled gate openings allow connections with trailheads on the Baker Lake side of the Divide. Hikers can descend to Pioneer Horse Camp or circle to the east through Bell Pass to Park Butte and Schriebers Meadows. For a quieter walk on the wild side, give the Elbow Lake Trail a visit.
Head east on the Mount Baker Highway to about milepost 17 and Mosquito Lake Road. After about 5 miles take a left on Middle Fork Road. After 5 more miles take the left fork onto Forest Road 39. In 5 more miles park at the undriveable Wallace Creek bridge/gate.
Hike along the road for about 1-1/2 miles to the trailhead on the right (across from the parking area).
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