Chain Lakes Hike

Saturday September 15th 2007

This hike is a long way from Seattle. It took us about three hours to drive there. You have to go north a long way, and then east about 40 miles. The last few miles of road climb higher and higher up to Artist Point, which is where the trail head is. Unfortunately, we could not see anything as drove to the start - the fog was impressively dense, we could barely see 100 feet ahead of us. We knew that glorious mountain views surrounded us (it is called Artist's Point for a reason!) but it was invisible to us.

For this hike, we went with Bill and Shannon. Normally, the complete hike is a 9 mile loop, but since we had two cars, we left one vehicle down by the information center, and the second car in the Artist Point parking lot - this saved us about a mile of uphill hiking at the end of the loop.

Despite the fact that we couldn't see anything at the start, we decide to do the hike anyway - after all, it took so long to drive up to the starting point, we may as well get some exercise, even if we couldn't see anything. But fortune smiled on us - about a mile into our adventure, the fog started to thin, and soon it dissolved away entirely. Mount Baker was revealed! What a glorious vision it was - the weather was suddenly blue sky and sunny, but not hot. It was perfect hiking weather. I took a lot of pictures. It turned out to be an terrific hike. Bill said he done the twice hike previously, but the fog had never lifted on one of those occasions. We were lucky.

I believe the hike is called the Chain Lakes hike, but the 100 Classic Hikes in Washington book calls this the Heather Meadows Hike. Some websites call this the Artist Point Hike. What ever it is called, it is a loop that goes all the way around Table Mountain. (Another steep trail allows you to clamber to the top of Table Mountain, but we did not attempt that.) The Chain Lakes are Mazama Lake, Iceberg Lake, Hayes Lake and Arbuthnot Lake. The book identifies them as the Galena Chain Lakes, and the topo map also gives them that name.

Click here for Topo map of our hike

Because we did the hike clockwise, most of the hike was downhill. The first lake we came to was small Mazama Lake. Then we arrived at Iceberg Lake, which is spectacularly beautiful. The trail goes between Hayes Lake and Iceberg Lake, and then begins a climb up to a high ridge. The climb up isn't hard, probably because I stopped about every 100 yards to take another picture with Iceberg Lake in the foreground and Mount Baker looming in the background. Insert factoid here: Mount Baker set the record for most snowfall in a single season in the United States: in the winter of 1998/1999, 1140 inches of snow fell on the Mount, breaking the previous record of 1120 inches on Mount Rainier in 1971/1972. This is also the world record for verifiable amount of snowfall in one year.

We stopped for lunch at the top of the ridge. Looking to the west we enjoyed views of Mount Baker, looking east we could see Mount Shuskan. A terrific picnic spot. After lunch we hiked down to the other side of the ridge to the shores of Bagley Lake, and then we ended our hike at the Visitor Information Center - where we picked up material describing a few other hikes in the nearby vicinity. It is such a stunningly beautiful area that we will have to go back - and hope for a clear day!

On the drive down the mountain, we took a short pulloff on a dirt road that led to Nooksack Falls. It is just a short side trip, and then a few steps to walk to the viewpoint. Because it was so late in the year, there wasn't a lot of water flowing in the falls, but it was worth the stop.

Click here for more information on Nooksack Falls

Click on these images for panorama pictures taken on this hike

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