September 5, 2016
Last year, Labor Day dawned not looking so great… Per the typical Pacific Northwest forecast for a holiday weekend, it was supposed to be cloudy with a decent chance of rain. I almost didn’t go on this hike, because the weather in the mountains can be so much more volatile than in the coastal areas. I am so glad I went anyway…
The Chain Lakes hike in the Mount Baker area of the North Cascades is an 8 mile loop hike. Depending on which direction you go, you can make it a bit tougher or easier. I did the toughest route, with a steep ascent (and stairs!) at the very end. I hiked past Mazama Lakes, Iceberg Lake, Hayes Lake and Bagley Lakes. They are all stunning! There are steep ascents and descents throughout the hike, and even on a very cool day with light rain, I found myself heating up and cooling down enough that I had to stop several times to shed layers and then put them back on.
The rain and clouds that day obscured the views of the mountains, but if you hike on a sunny, clear day you get spectacular views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. I thought that the clouds and the fog made for some pretty neat views though! Be prepared to see batches of snow all year long – there are years when it never fully melts.
The hike has a total elevation gain of 1,700 feet, and the maximum altitude is 5,400 feet, so it is a fairly difficult hike. That said, I can’t wait to hike this trail again – it is one of my all time favorites! Maybe next time the mountains will be out!