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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
6.50 mi (10.46 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Where the Mount Baker Highway ends, the Chain Lakes Trail begins. This spectacular trail leads through talus fields to mountain vistas, along lake shores and heather meadows, through wildlife and blueberry bushes, all without repetition. The trail is popular because many users find its 6.5 miles and 1,800 feet of elevation gain to be the perfect combination for a day hike. Also, it is only accessible during summer and fall, and this availability tends to concentrate interest. Yet somehow the trail rarely feels crowded. This classic, beloved trail, among the finest in the North Cascades, is a must-hike.

There are many ways to approach the loop. If you prefer to get most of your work out of the way early, begin at Heather Meadows Visitor Center (signed as Austin Pass Picnic Area), and climb up the steep Upper Wild Goose Trail to Artist Point. Alternately, you can drive to the end of Mount Baker Highway and begin at Artist Point. Either way, head west from the road-end parking lot along the talus fields of Chain Lakes Trail.

From Artist Point, the first mile is relatively flat and rocky. It's also wide open: Mount Baker looms large and straight ahead, and if you turn around you'll see Mount Shuksan to the east. Keep your eyes on the trail, though. Multitasking hikers and photographers can easily slip on this narrow stretch, and its a long way down.

Stay right at the signed junction with Ptarmigan Ridge Trail, and descend to Mazama, the first lake. This little lake offers backcountry campsites and a toilet for backpackers. Continue to Iceberg Lake, popular with picnickers, before reaching another signed junction. Stay right again for the loop, or go left to Galena Camps and Hayes Lake to spend the night. Climb to Herman Saddle for awesome views of Baker and Shuksan, then drop down to Bagley Lakes. Finally, cross an old stone bridge and climb the stone steps toward Heather Meadows Visitor Center to complete the loop.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Lake and mountain views. Wildflowers. Backcountry camping.

Cons

Summer crowds.

Trailhead Elevation

4,250.00 ft (1,295.40 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,800.00 ft (548.64 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Fishing

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

North Cascades National Park
Mount Baker Area, Washington
Mount Baker Area, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Comments

07/31/2017
We did a truncated version of this hike called the Bagley Lakes trail. At the time there was water from the melting snow running underneath some snow bridges that were causing unstable conditions on a section of the Chain of Lakes trail. The day before someone had fallen through chest deep and had to be pulled out.
This hike was still unbelievably beautiful, gorgeous clear water and views of the mountains. Perfect for a little swim for our two dogs.
08/30/2016
Crazy awesome hike. Easy drive to the trail head. Trail is easy enough, long but lots of flat throughout the hike, and not a ton of elevation gain.
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