The New Northwest Passage
Chuckanut Drive is rightly famous as one of America's most beautiful marine drives, and it's at the southern end on Samish Bay that the westward-moving Pacific Northwest Trail hiker first reaches saltwater. In the early 1980s, South Chuckanut Mountain and Blanchard Hill were the first made-to-order parts of the PNT ever built by the Pacific Northwest Trail Association. Today the area boasts an impressive network of recreation trails. From the South Samish Overlook you will witness a panorama that includes snowy peaks in Canada, the San Juan Islands, Samish Island, Anacortes, Mt. Rainier, and the Samish Flats.
This spectacular marine scenery is only a 10-minute drive from the city of Bellingham.
South Chuckanut Mountain and Blanchard Hill: 6.6 miles.
You don't need to walk all the way from the Continental Divide to feel some of the thrill as the PNT first reaches saltwater. This hike begins on the back side of South Chuckanut Mountain, climbs the British Army Trail, passes Lizard Lake, and emerges from the forest at South Samish Overlook. Blanchard Hill's panorama is one of the PNT's ten best.
The Blanchard Hill Trail descends 2 miles, switchbacking in and out of very large openings where the maritime views extend from Mt. Rainier in the south to the Olympic Mountains in the west to the San Juan Islands in the north.
Chuckanut Drive (Rte. 11) runs south from the city of Bellingham and north from I-5 (at the exit north of Burlington—about an hour north of Seattle). The Pacific Northwest Trail's trailhead is immediately south of the guard rail south of the Oyster Bar Restaurant.
No permits are required for the Blanchard Hill hike.
Maps and Guidebooks
The best maps are the 7 1/2' USGS Bow and Bellingham South. Also refer to the Pacific Northwest Trail guidebook.
Who to Contact
Pacific Northwest Trail Association
PO Box 1817
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication