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Elle Ossello | 07.05.2016

Tucked up into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and just south of the rugged Northern Cascades, this long, skinny lake is an excellent spot for your next adventure.

It’s an easy two-hour drive from Seattle and an even shorter 1.5 hours from Bellingham. Once you break away from traffic on I-5, it’s all winding, well-maintained country roads through sunny valleys and small family homesteads.

Thanks to proximity, downright loveliness, and spacious campgrounds, Baker Lake is not your go-to for solitude (for that, waiting until after Labor Day helps). Don’t let that deter you, though, because Baker Lake easily hosts large numbers. It’s almost 9 miles long while only 4,500 feet across at its widest, ensuring that no matter where you are, you’ll miss most other people there.

Camping at Baker Lake

From massive lakeside campsites to small creekside nooks, Baker Lake serves up the right camping for almost any group.

  • Kulshan Campground — by far the largest site on the lake, this campground hosts over 100 campsites. Though the day use picnic and swimming areas offer up some of the most stunning views of Mount Baker and neighboring Mount Shucksan, the sites are cramped and tightly packed together. It’s the only site open year round, but don’t show up expecting any privacy.
  • Swift Creek Campground — Looking for amenities? This is your spot. A 20-slip marina and boat ramp, a covered picnic shelter, picnic tables, barbecues, a beach, and a swimming area are only some examples. Sites here can be reserved and are good for groups.
  • Horseshoe Cove Campground — Though it’s not as large as Kulshan or Swift Creek, Horseshoe Cove’s sites provide more space and are better able to host large groups. Plus, the large swimming “cove” is far better than the Swift Creek swimming area.
  • Shannon Creek Campground — This is your best bet at peace and solitude when weighing campgrounds on Baker Lake. Though it’s a bit out of the way compared to its Southern counterpoints, campers here are privy to excellent views of Mount Watson and still have use of a boat ramp and a beach area.
  • Panorama Point Campground — Though there are few amenities at Panorama Point, it’s hard to beat the sweeping views over the lovely reservoir. Nearby Horseshoe Cove provides potable water in a pinch.
  • Park Creek Campground — If you are seeking privacy and are willing to sacrifice immediate access to Baker Lake, consider Park Creek Campground. It’s situated alongside Park Creek, which flows with runoff from Mount Baker’s glacier.
  • Boulder Creek Campground — Like Park Creek Campground, Boulder Creek Campground is a bit removed from Baker Lake, though spending a night or two removed from the chaos that often overtakes Kuslhan Campground or Horseshoe Cove Campground can elevate an outdoorsy experience.
  • Lower Sandy Beach + Campsites — If you’re looking for an less frequented, somewhat hidden site away from the chaos of a sunny weekend, this is your spot. It’s relatively primitive, but nearby Horseshoe Cove Campground offers the amenities that Lower Sandy Beach lacks.
  • Bayview North and Bayview South Group Campsites — Each is home to one large group site, these two can each host upwards of 100 people a night. Each site is relatively primitive though—expect to tote in your own water and have limited access to toilets.

Hiking at Baker Lake

  • South Baker Lake Trail — For true solitude while camping around Baker Lake, hike South Baker Lake Trail and snag a cozy backcountry campsite. At 14 miles, this hike is more than just a day hike (unless trail running is your thing). Set your sights on Anderson Point—there are a remarkable number of amenities for a backcountry campsite and the view of Mount Baker across the lake is spectacular.
  • Boulder Ridge Trail Hike — Though this trail is predominately used for climbers looking for an alternate route up Mount Baker during the spring and early summer, and elk hunters in the fall, it’s an excellent off-the-radar hike for those looking to stretch their beach-going Baker Lake legs. It’s a short 4.2-mile out and back.
  • Shadow of the Sentinels — Towering old-growth cedars and 500-year-old Douglas firs engulf this short trail and offer a quick, but informative hike.

Kayaking Baker Lake

  • Baker Lake Sea Kayaking — Though you’ll run into moderate motorized boat traffic, Baker Lake by way of sea kayak is excellent, easy, and highly recommended. The long, skinny nature of the lake makes it easy to bail/return to shore no matter where you are, and launch points abound. Rent before you arrive, and be prepared to never want to leave.

Fishing at Baker Lake

Fishing is open on Baker Lake from the end of April to the end of October. Come for the Kokanee in the early and late season, and keep a sharp eye for sockeye. As per usual, it’s illegal to take Dolly Varden and bull trout out of Baker Lake due to their endangered status. Check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for up-to-date information.

Of the most important things you can do while enjoying a weekend away at Baker Lake, practicing the principles of Leave No Trace can be one of, if not the most important. Pack it in, pack it out, and always try to leave everything in better shape than the way you found it.


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