Looking for beautiful hikes in Washington? Then you may want to add the Chain Lakes Loop Trail to your list. It begins where the Mount Baker Highway ends and provides stunning views of 10,786-foot Mount Baker, also known as Koma Kulshan, and 9,131-foot Mount Shuksan.
Besides epic views of Mounts Baker and Shuksan, you also get to see the North Cascades, alpine lakes, and beautiful wildflowers. During the late summer, there are blueberry bushes to provide the perfect trail-side snack.
Chain Lakes Loop Trail
Location: North Cascades, Mount Baker Area
Length: 2 to 8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation gain: 1,700 ft.
The trail is well-maintained, and the length and elevation gain make it perfect for a day hike. You can choose to approach the loop in several ways, but if you go from the Artist Point parking lot and hike the trail in a counter-clockwise direction, then you get the high point of the loop out of the way early on by descending it first. For the rest of the day, you get to enjoy a milder hike and beautiful lakes.
You can also choose to start the loop at Austin Pass/Heather Meadows, which would allow you to do the climb first and leave the steep Wild Goose section for later. Along the trail, you can stop off at Iceberg Lake for a nice picnic, visit the rocky beaches, dip your feet in the lake (or enjoy a nice swim!) or head to the campsites.
The best time to go is between late July through mid-October but be prepared for summer crowds. Having said that, the trail themselves don’t feel too crowded for the most part, so don’t let it put you off going. For more information on the trail, check out the Washington Trails Association’s Hiking Guide.
This trail offers lots of variety in short space of time; it would usually take several days of backpacking to experience this much variety. The views continually change, with panoramic scenes in every possible direction. It’s a must for any hiker in Washington!