|Lower Curtis Glacier|
Difficulty: Moderate to Lake Ann; Moderate-Strenuous to Curtis Glacier
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Northwest Forest Pass required for trailhead parking
This hike visits a pair of stunning destinations in Washington state's North Cascades: gem-like Lake Ann and the glistening ice of the Lower Curtis Glacier. While Lake Ann usually gets top billing and is the main destination for most hikers, hikers shouldn't pass up the opportunity to continue along the trail for a closer look at the icy seracs of the Curtis Glacier at the foot of imposing Mount Shuksan. This hike is one of many excellent hikes along the Mount Baker Highway; the easy access to its high elevation trailhead and the excellent scenery en route make this a popular and oft-crowded hike. The hike spends much of its initial three miles in the forest, descending from the Mount Baker Highway into the meadow-filled basin of Swift Creek and then cutting through forest along the slopes of an arm of Mount Shuksan before climbing through alpine meadows and talus to a saddle and access to Lake Ann. If you haven't hiked much before, it's important to know that you can handle the return uphill before attempting this downhill-first-then-uphill-last hike.
I hiked to the Curtis Glacier with a friend on a hot but beautifully clear August day. Setting out from Seattle in the morning, we took I-5 north to Burlington, then Highway 20 east to Sedro Wooley, then Highway 9 north to the junction with the Mount Baker Highway (Route 542). We followed the Mount Baker Highway east until reaching the Lake Ann Trailhead, which is just short of the road's dead end at Artist Point. The parking lot had a reasonable number of spaces but by the time we arrived cars were parked all along the side of the extremely narrow road to Artist Point as well. The views were already excellent from the trailhead: looking north, we could see Mount Larrabee and the assorted rocky peaks by the Canadian border.
The trail departed from the parking lot and remained flat for the first few hundred meters, roughly paralleling the road; at one point, the trail has a view of the peaks visible from the trailhead that is within a stone's throw of the road.
|Swift Creek basin|
|Paintbrush in bloom|
|Shuksan from Swift Creek basin|
|First view of Mount Baker|
Lake Ann was a pretty lake nestled in a high basin. From the saddle, we could see a nice backdrop of various North Cascades peaks rising behind the lake.
|Lake Ann from trail saddle|
|Lake Ann, Mount Shuksan, Curtis Glaciers|
|Upper and Lower Curtis Glaciers, Summit Pyramid of Mt. Shuksan|
|Waterfalls tumbling off the slopes of Shuksan towards Baker Lake|
|Lake Ann and Mount Baker|
|Terminus of Lower Curtis Glacier|