Just south of Bellingham, Washington, is one of the best ocean vantage points in the Pacific Northwest. Rising up from the shores of the Puget Sound, Blanchard Mountain is truly where the mountains meet the sea, and home to the glacial rock formation known as Oyster Dome. Hike through a green wonderland of mossy Northwest forest, crossing streams and navigating over roots and rocks to reach Oyster Dome’s well-known viewpoint. The hike is only 6.5 miles round-trip and can easily be done with younger children and dogs, making it one of the premier family hikes in the region. Take advantage of the last few nice weekends in the Pacific Northwest, and who knows, maybe you can snap your holiday pictures from a mountaintop this year.
What: Located on the slopes of Blanchard Mountain, Oyster Dome is a glacial-polished sheer cliff with sweeping views of Washington’s Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, and the San Juan Islands. A relatively easy 1,200-foot vertical gain, Oyster Dome is a popular summer and fall hiking destination.
Where: The Oyster Dome trailhead is in the Chuckanut Mountains 11 miles south of Bellingham and roughly two hours north of Seattle off of I-5. The trailhead appears near the milepost 10 sign off of Route 11.
How to get there: From Seattle take I-5 North to exit 231. Take Route 11 North for about 10 miles until coming to the trailhead on the uphill side of the road. The trail splits at 1.5 miles; turn left on Samish Bay Connection Trail. Half a mile later, take a right onto the trail marked Oyster Dome Trail. If you feel lost, signs for Oyster Dome are present at every trail junction.
When to go: Early fall is prime hiking time in the Cascades and surrounding areas. Weather is pleasant and the sun is still shining. Timing is everything though, as the weather gets rough around late September.
What to bring: Aside from general hiking ware, bring a picnic lunch and binoculars. The top of Oyster Dome is a great lunch rock, and with binoculars you can zoom in on all of the boat traffic down below.
Do: Go for an afternoon. This isn’t the type of hike you need to dedicate a full day to, so if you have a couple hours, go for it. Make sure to check the weather though, because clouds can get socked-in along the Puget, ruining your chance at panoramic views.
Don’t: Take the trail to the bat caves. The trail is closed indefinitely due to human erosion and is not safe to venture to, no matter how tempting it may seem.