Distance from Vancouver: 2h30 plus border time
3-4hrs, roughly 11km round-trip
Elevation gain: 195m
Back to Canada and ready to keep exploring, I decided to spent my last week of my 7 months trip/vacations very close-by. We planned a nice 5 days trip to the North Cascades and Mount Baker area in Washington state. Because we were both a bit injured and wanted to relax during the week, we opted for a flexible itinerary that would allow us to go back to the car every 1-2 nights. Lighter backpacks also means more games to carry for rainy days!
We crossed at Sumas crossing through Abbotsford early on our first day and stopped at the IGA and the liquor store right after the border. From there, there is another 45min drive to the Glacier visitor center. I strongly recommend stopping to check on updated conditions about the trails and the roads.
Weather wasn’t quite on our side at that time, so we had a long 30min chat with the park ranger to discuss various possibilities of trails and camping spots for a rainy day. We decided to start in the valley instead of going up in the Mt. Baker alpine area. We knew the rain would come in early in the evening, so we chose to hike the Nooksack Cirque Trail, which follows the river on a pretty flat and covered trail. We were told at the visitor center that the first portion of the trail consisted of a long traverse on a very narrow log – and that this could take us up to 15min. With our big packs, the only safe way to cross was to sit down and slowly cross the log. She was right – it took us a good 15-20min in total for both of us to head on the other side of the creek.
From there the trail is very straight forward, mainly flat (although you will feel a slight constant elevation gain throughout) and very easy to follow.
It took us just under 2hrs at slow pace to arrive to our campsite. Eventually you will start hearing the creek getting closer on your right hand side – the trail then gets by the side of the river bank and opens up in small campsite areas. These are not official camp spots, but they are very well set up for a tent and a small cooking area. The good thing about this trail is that the trailhead is not part of any official national park or forest : you don’t need to pay to leave your car at the trailhead.
Up to here we hiked abour 3.5miles, and we explore a bit more the river area to see how far we could hike up towards the cirque. Unfortunately the water level was too high for us to easily cross and the official trail is over at that point – you can either risk the river crossing and bushwhack if you feel like it. The rain had started already and we decided to enjoy our camp and a nice warm dinner!
We only saw 2 small groups of hikers on the trail when we were there. We were the only ones at the campsites too, so it was a very relaxing and wilderness experience.