Church Mountain Lookout by Excelsior Peak via Mount Baker Highway / 教堂山

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Church Mountain Lookout by Excelsior Peak above Mountain Baker Highway is a short way east of the actual summit. Despite being a few hundred feet lower than the highest point, the former fire lookout offers stunning views. Best of all, the south-facing trail allows for early-season access to the area.

Church Mountain Lookout at last
Church Mountain Lookout at last

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Church Mountain Lookout at a Glance

Access: NF-3040
Round Trip: 8 miles
Elevation Range: 2000′-5922′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface

Before the trip, I couldn’t find details on the actual summit. So the lookout was our stopping point. I didn’t think it was wise to attempt it with two dogs either. Plus, the weather grew direr as the day progressed.

It was the farthest north I’d ever driven to a trailhead and the closest I’ve been to the border! Even with the fresh powder, scrambling through the meadow was pretty direct. The open terrain also didn’t require much route finding.

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Dearborn Creek Basin

We started seeing snow 3500′. But it was still comfortable to continue in boots, so I waited to put on microspikes another thousand feet higher. Later the trail faded right as we went out into the clearing.

The meadow in the upper basin had a ton of snow. But we could still make out the summer trail by the slight dent in the few feet of fresh powder. So we had no problem keeping track through to the higher ground.

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Church Mountain Lookout

The largely sunny weather had turned cloudy, so views across the Nooksack River Valley were hit-or-miss. Below the lookout, we plowed through the snow over two long switchbacks. Then at 5700′, I put on snowshoes for the last 400 feet.

Views to the east and the north were ok. Scenery to the south was nonexistent, but the top of Mount Baker showed up at one point. A few Canadian peaks were visible but too hazy to make out the high points.

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It was a cold day, but somehow we managed to hang out on top for an hour! Meanwhile, I waited for the persistent clouds to move away at some point. But sadly, that never happened, of course.

At last, Mount Baker and the southern peaks made a cameo back in the basin, so we stayed a bit to savor the views. But when we reached the car, the clouds had once again obscured the entire area.

See more trip photos here.

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