Springtime in the Northwest means melting snow in the mountains, streams rushing with cold, clear water and showery days warmed by the occasional sun break. Trees sprout new leaves, flowers appear and the days grow noticeably longer. For families with children of any age, it's a time to reconnect with nature, to truly appreciate the beauty of the region we call home.
Baker River Trail
Family-friendly Baker River Trail offers a leisurely walk through a valley of huge boulders and old-growth cedars draped in moss, with stunning views of the rushing blue-green river and surrounding wooded mountainsides.
It's about a five-mile round trip with between 200 and 400 feet of elevation gain, so the hike is easy for people of all abilities and especially for families with small children. The first half-mile or so of the trail is wide and flat enough to be wheelchair accessible in good weather.
Plus, it's an out-and-back route, so you can simply turn around at any point if anyone gets tired.
Creek crossings are generally easy. Check trail conditions at the Forest Service office in Sedro-Woolley or blog posts at the Washington Trails Association. Check wta.org or call the Forest Service at 360-856-5700.
Baker River Trail starts from a parking area at the end of Baker Lake Road, where facilities are limited to pit toilets. A $30 Northwest Forest Pass or $5 day-use permit is required, available from the Forest Service office on Highway 20 in Sedro-Woolley.
Follow the trailhead to the left of the far side of the parking lot, and within a half-mile you'll reach a suspension footbridge. Walk to the center to enjoy a view of the mountains, but return to the trail and continue upriver.
On your way, you'll see towering trees, some five feet across, and pass magical hollows that kids will find perfect for exploring. Breaks in the trees offer views of ridge tops - many will be snow-covered into early summer.
Trail's end, at the confluence of the Baker River and Sulphide Creek, offers a wondrous look at the glaciers high on Mount Shuksan. It's these icepacks that supply the runoff for surrounding rivers and streams. Campsites at Sulphide Creek require a permit.
On your return trip, the rocky bars below the footbridge are wonderful for sunning near the river on a warm day.
As you drive home, be sure to stop at the turnout on Baker Lake Road near Boulder Creek, where there's a jaw-dropping vista of Mount Baker.
To reach the Baker River Trail, take Interstate 5 south to Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway. Go east to just past milepost 82, turning left (north) onto Baker Lake Road. Continue for 25 miles to the road's end (it's a dirt road for the last three miles).
If this is your first trip into the North Cascades or the Mount Baker wilderness areas - and especially if you have small children - be sure to stop at the Shadow of the Sentinels interpretive walk along Baker Lake Road. It's a half-mile loop on a boardwalk with informational placards that describe native flora and fauna and put the region into historical context. You'll also see massive Douglas firs that are several hundred years old and are too big to wrap your arms around. Bring a camera!
Trailhead is at a turnoff on Baker Lake Road, about 14 1/2 miles north of Highway 20. There's a toilet, but no other facilities. Parking requires a $30 Northwest Forest Pass or a $5 day-use pass.
Suggest your ideas for family-friendly events or day trips to Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Bellingham Families news online at BellinghamFamilies.com or on Facebook at Bellingham Families.