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Skyline Divide is one of the most popular hikes on Mount Baker, offering up views that surpass even those of Heather Meadows and Chain Lakes at the Mount Baker ski area. It's a relatively short hike too, ranging around 5 miles round-trip to the initial views of Baker and Shuksan. The mountains come in to view at about two miles in, Baker's blue-white glaciers looming above the horizon. Here is a warning though—those two miles can feel like 10 under the wrong conditions—conditions under which the Beers at the Bottom team trudged through this hike.
The ridge offers a wide open canvas of mountain meadows to explore. Though we crossed paths frequently with other hikers, I felt singular in the wilderness and appreciated being able to find an empty knoll or two for a break. The mountain breeze kept the majority of the bugs away, though they seemed to congregate in the shade of tree patches.
Cresting the ridge, you'll find yourself in a saddle between a sloping trail to the left, and a more rugged path to the right. Go left and enjoy wildflower fields and views of Shuksan. Indigo colored lupine contrasted against bright yellow aster makes for a dreamy landscape. This section of trail meanders down into a mountain valley below, but unfortunately we didn't hike that far.
The trail to the right continues up and over another steep incline, looking almost like the barren tracks of roller coaster. Go up and over, then find yourself confronted with another steep climb. But, you'll find that the trail forks here. For a gentler hike along the edge of the ridge veer right and around rather than tackling another climb. There's nothing wrong with taking the more difficult path—but the end result is a very similar view. Your reward is an unobstructed view of mountain. From Shuksan to Baker, the skyline is dominated by snow-capped peaks and craggy pinnacles.
To avoid the hassle of flies, try early summer, just after the snow melt. Alternatively, hiking later in the day seems to avoid the highest concentrations. In fact, we met a couple on their way up for the sunset—equipped with headlamps—as we were making it back to the trailhead.
Washington Trails Association (WTA):
US Forest Service: