Oyster Dome - 6.5 Miles 1900 ft.
- Puget Sound and Islands -- North Sound
- Roundtrip 6.5 miles Elevation Gain 1900 ft Highest Point 2025 ft
- Mountain views
- User info
- Dogs allowed on leash
- Discover Pass required
- Guidebooks & Maps
- Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
- A glacial-polished and fractured exposed hunk of sheer cliff on Blanchard Mountain, Oyster Dome is an intriguing and scenic natural landmark. Its base is littered with jumbled boulders, talus fields, and bat-breeding caves. And from atop, views abound of the Sound, mountains, and a smorgasbord of islands. A popular hiking destination year-round, Oyster Dome is the pearl of the Chuckanut Mountains.
Your route begins on the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 1200-mile long-distance trail-in-the-making from the Olympic Coast to Montana's Glacier National Park. Through a uniform forest of second-growth conifers, gain elevation steadily. A few giant snags and remnant firs stand testament to the cathedral forests that once blanketed this region. The trail is well constructed and maintained, thanks not to the government but to dedicated volunteers.
Smell sweet maritime air as you ascend the verdant slopes of Blanchard Mountain. Rising from Samish Bay, Blanchard is the only place in the Cascades where mountain meets sea. A recreational and biological gem between Bellingham and Mount Vernon, much of this landmass was slated to be logged. But due to the work of Conservation Northwest and other local organizations, a consensus of sorts has been reached, with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources protecting Blanchard's trails and guaranteeing that its core will remain in a natural state.
In 1 mile reach a small ledge with big views out to the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains. In another 0.5 mile reach a signed junction (elev. 1100 ft). Head left on the Samish Bay Connection Trail. Now on rougher tread, make a gentle traverse across Blanchard's western slopes, hopping across a few streams in the process. In 0.5 mile from the junction, reach another junction, this one with the Oyster Dome Trail. The way left leads to a logging road. Head right for your objective. The grade once again steepens and you enter a damp, dark glen. Pass giant erratics, springboard-notched cedar stumps, and an ice-age interpretive sign before coming to a junction with the Talus Trail.
To reach the base of Oyster Dome, an area referred to as the Amphitheater Bat Caves, proceed left. After a tricky creek crossing, the short trail delivers you to a jumbled mess of talus beneath sheer cliffs. It's quite a sight. This rocky chaos contains numerous caves. Extremely hazardous to explore, they should be left for the resident bat colonies.
To get to the top of the dome, continue 0.1 mile on the main path, climbing steeply to yet another junction. Head left on the Rock Trail. Pass rusty old cable and other logging relics. Cross a small creek, then make one final push, breaking out of the forest onto the rim of the open promontory. Be careful. Keep children and dogs nearby. Oyster Dome's abrupt drop may lead you to clam up. Its views, however, are succulent. Spread out before you are the San Juan Islands, Fildalgo Island, Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, the Skagit River flats and a whole lot of saltwater. Count islands, watch boats, and soak up the sun's rays.
- Driving Directions:
From Mount Vernon head north on I-5 to exit 231. Follow State Route 11 (Chuckanut Drive) north for 10.2 miles. The trailhead is on the right side of the road just after passing milepost 10. There is parking on the left (west) shoulder of the highway. If you're coming from Bellingham follow SR 11 south for 11.5 miles to the trailhead (elev. 100 ft). The trailhead is about 300ft south of Oyster bar.