Skyline Divide

After much too long a stretch of busy, non-hiking weekends, I was finally able to get outside. My dad and I drove about three hours north from Kent to the (tiny!) town of Glacier, WA where we had rented an Airbnb for the weekend. It was the perfect place to stay as a base camp for Skyline Divide, as we only had to drive about 1000 feet to the start of NF-37, the gravel road leading up to the trailhead. I had been anxious that the drive up would be icy or covered in snow, as the USDA Forest Service had reclassified the road conditions as “NOT CLEARED” on 10/12. However, in terms of ice and snow conditions, the road wasn’t bad, with only the last few miles seeing any snow–and it helped that we were driving a car with FWD. I would recommend taking the drive slow, though, as there were some potholes and fallen tree branches scattered along the road (it took us about an hour from the start of NF-37 to the parking lot).  At the trailhead, there’s room for quite a few cars, as well as a picnic bench and a restroom (Note: the restroom was running low on toilet paper when we arrived, so I recommend bringing your own–just in case!).

We started off on the trail at 8:45 AM, and I was surprised at how quickly we warmed up–I began taking off the warmer outer layers of clothing within the first mile. The weather forecast wasn’t great for Saturday, the day of our hike, but we were lucky and didn’t have any issue with rain or snow in the mountains, even at 6000 feet. The start of the hike is fairly steep, as you can expect to gain 1500 feet in the first couple of miles. Snow wasn’t too deep along the incline, but it certainly made the hike more strenuous. We didn’t see a single person until we reached the second knoll, where we spoke briefly with a guy on a hunting trip. He was hunting deer, although we saw signs indicating black bear hunting season is also underway. We heard a few shots in the distance, and I assume that there were multiple hunting parties in the area. Please take normal hunting season precautions when hiking out in the woods this time of year–making some noise/chatting while hiking and wearing bright colors is always a good idea.

At the first fork in the trail, we went right towards Mount Baker, mostly because it was clearer in that direction and easier to see the trail in the 12+ inches of snow. The view didn’t get much better and the view towards Mt. Baker was pretty much blocked by low clouds, but we hiked up another mile or so before stopping for lunch. We found a flat area surrounded by trees and out of the wind, laid down a garbage bag and layered up while we sat and ate trail mix. The sun was out by the time we were finished eating, but still no view of the mountain, so we decided to turn back around 11:40 AM.

Hiking downhill was easier than I thought it would be in the snow, but still hard on the knees and hips. There were a few times where we lost our footing and slipped a little, but overall it was an easy hike back. We passed a place where our cell service was phenomenal, and my dad ended up getting a “Welcome to Canada” text, which was funny–I didn’t think we were that close to the border! I wore more layers on the hike down the mountain, as it was a lot chillier when we weren’t huffing and puffing uphill. We arrived at the trailhead around 2 PM, and headed back to our Airbnb for hot showers and dinner at Milano’s (for the second night in a row).

Overall, I would rate this hike an 8/10 and would highly recommend. I haven’t ever hiked such a quiet, serene trail, and the snowfields and panoramic views were beautiful. I hope to go back to Glacier and do this hike again (along with all the others in the North Cascades) during the summer, when the flowers are abundant and the views are 360°.

The following are most of the things we brought for our hike in the snow (I won’t make you read every single item we had in our packs):

  • First aid supplies
  • Fire kit–stormproof matches and a fire starter block
  • Knives
  • Food and water (we brought 2 liters each, in bottles rather than bladders out of fear the hoses on our water bladders might freeze up)
  • Weatherproof gloves (although the snow was powdery, it was surprisingly cold and wet when falling down)
  • Layers and layers and layers
  • Microspikes (though we didn’t need them)
  • Gaiters
  • Map and a written description of the trail
  • Garbage bags (for sitting on, trash, muddy boots in the car, etc.)

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