Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Hours: Established campsites are available from May through October, with more limited availability during the earlier and later months. Dispersed campsites (any place in the forest that is not posted as a designated campground) are available on a first come, first served basis year round.
Location: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest spans more than 140 miles along the western mountain faces of Washington State, reaching as far north as the Canadian border, and ending at the northern boundary of the Mount Rainier National Park.
Activities: Hiking, biking, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, river rafting, bird watching, berry picking, picnicking, sightseeing, camping, hunting and fishing (permits required). For information on Washington Gaming permits, please visit their website.
Contact: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, 21905 64th Avenue W, Mountlake Terrace, Washington 98043-2278, (425) 775-9702 or (800) 627-0062
Spanning across the borders of 5 Washington counties, and within 70 miles of 62% of Washington’s population, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is one of the most accessible and most visited national forests in the country. Whether you prefer downhill skiing, river rafting, or simply escaping into the established wilderness area, this National Forest offers recreational activities for every taste.
The mountains of the northern end of the forest typically reach 7,000 to 8,000 feet, while the southern points have an average of 5,000 to 6,000. The forest also encompasses Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak, and is home to the most glaciers and snow fields of any national forest in the continental U.S. If mountains and snow are your scenery of choice, you’ll want to head out Interstate 90 to Snoqualmie Pass, where downhill skiing is a winter time staple.
If bird watching is your forte, follow State Route 20 east until you reach the Skagit Wild and Scenic River system, a federally designated wild and scenic river established in 1978. Spawning salmon abound here in the late summer, autumn and early winter months, nearly filling the cold, clear river. Hundreds of bald eagles migrate to this location from Alaska and Canada during the winter months and feed on the five different salmon and trout species that fill the water. Nested within the cottonwoods along the river, as many as six hundred eagles line the Skagit’s banks, making for some of the best eagle watching in Washington.
South of the Skagit, several other rivers wind their way through the more rural communities of Darrington and Granite Falls, which are access points for the Mountain Loop Scenic Byway. Here, a visit to the Verlot Public Service Center is in order, and is the starting place for many scenic hikes, ranging from the relatively easy to the extremely difficult. A four-mile trail to Monte Cristo is a fun hike, where visitors can explore this mining ghost town. The town was born and populated in the 1890s thanks to mining in the area, and as mining declined in the 1920s it became a popular spot for hunters and sight seers. By the 1930s, however, the town was completely abandoned.
Backcountry camping is available in all areas of the forest, and as always it is advisable that you check in with a ranger before heading into the woods. The southern end of the park is especially good for camping, because of the beautiful drive along the historic Mather Memorial Parkway (State Route 410), with incredible views of Mt. Rainier, agreeable weather, and quiet woodsy locations. If you don’t set out with a particular destination in mind, finding a spot to camp can be a little overwhelming in the vast expanse of the forest. When in doubt about where to camp,rangers can make great recommendations, pointing you to the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of dispersed camp sites. Camping in the backcountry of this incredible park is almost always free, but be aware if you park less than ¼ mile from a trail head, as a $5 Northwest Forest Day Pass is needed.