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

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Church Mountain Lookout by Excelsior Peak is just east of the actual summit. The former fire lookout offers stunning views despite being a few hundred feet lower. Moreover, the south trail best allows for early-season access.

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: 2313′-6080′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface

Before the trip, I couldn’t find details on the route to the mountain’s summit, so we aimed for the lookout. I also didn’t think trying the summit with two dogs was wise. On top of that, the weather grew worse as the day progressed.

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

Church Mountain Trailhead
Church Mountain Trailhead

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Dearborn Creek Basin

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

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

Walking into Dearborn Creek Basin
Walking into Dearborn Creek Basin

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Church Mountain Lookout

The mainly sunny weather had turned cloudy, so views across the Nooksack River Valley were spotty. Below the lookout, we plowed through the snow over two long switchbacks. Then, at 5700′, I put on snowshoes for the final 400′ ascent.

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

Summit dogs on Church Mountain Lookout
Summit dogs on Church Mountain Lookout

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Outro

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

At last, Mount Baker and the southern peaks made a brief cameo in the basin. So we stayed a bit to savor the views. But when we reached the car, the clouds covered the entire area again.

South panorama
South panorama

See more trip photos here.

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