Baker River Trail

Trailhead Location: 48.75032, -121.555863
Parking Fee: Yes
Location: Washington
Land type: USFS National Forest
Length: 5.2 mi.
Elevation Gain: 770 ft.
Highest Point: 900 ft.
Loop/OnB: Out & Back
Year Round: Yes
Best Month: 7
Popular: Yes
Waterfall: No
Lake: No
Stream: Yes
View: Yes
Old Growth: Yes
Backpacking: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Bicycles: No
Dogs: Yes
Horses: No

The Hike

The Baker River Trail is a low elevation hike through old growth forest, which is accessible most of the year. Only when low elevation snow occurs is it inaccessible. Just over a half mile from the trailhead is a picturesque suspension bridge over the Baker River. The bridge is actually part of the Baker Lake Trail, but is short and fun detour. Take a glance over the edge and peer into the clear waters In mid-July you may even spot a bright red Sockeye Salmon. 

Around 1.5 miles in you'll cross in to North Cascades National Park. Dogs are not allowed past this point, so please respect the rules and turn around if you have your pup with you. Finally at 2.6 miles in you'll reach Sulphide Creek Camp. If you decide to camp here you'll need a backcountry permit from the NPS, which is obtainable in person at a ranger station. If you are just hiking for the day, there are some nice spots along the bank to have a snack, with Mt. Shuksan looming behind you.


The Baker River was originally called the Nahcullum River, by the Skagit peoples who lived here before white settlers came to the area. The closest tribe to the area were the Sbaleuk who had a village near present day Concrete. As white settlers arrived the Skagit would try to dissuade them from traveling upstream, but the influx was too large and eventually the Skagit would lose out on there bountiful home lands.

In 1877 a party of 5, lead by Otto Klement, traveled up the Skagit River in search of gold. When they came upon the Nahcullum river Klement decided to name it after Mt. Baker. Due to the steep topography and inclement weather development of logging and mining in the area was slow. Settlers moved into the area, making a living by selling mining supplies, farming crops and growing liverstock. But again the steep topography meant that relatively little of the land was used and much remained in the public domain.

In 1897, Grover Cleveland an avid hunter & fisherman, set aside a large portion of forest as the Washington Forest Reserve. The 293 ft tall Lower Baker River Dam was completed in 1925 by a crew of 1,300 men and was the tallest dam in the world at the time. 34 years later the 312 ft Upper Baker River Dam was completed. In 1968 Lyndon B Johnson signed North Cascades National park into existence.

A short section of the trail, from the trailhead to the suspension bridge, is actually part of the Pacific Northwest Trail. The PNT is a 1,200-mile continuous path from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, designated in 2009 as a national scenic trail. The idea came about in the 70s and in 1977 was first hiked. It's route has changes over the years to deal with trail closings, bridge washouts, forest fires, etc.