Access: Good gravel road to Samish Overlook Trailhead, Discover Pass required; or paved road to trailhead on Chuckanut Drive, where there is extremely limited parking
Oyster Dome is a rocky outcrop on a wooded summit in northwest Washington's Chuckanut Mountains with an astounding view of the Salish Sea, its islands, and the surrounding mountains. A good hike during winter and spring months when the Cascades are still buried in snow, this is perhaps one of my favorite lowland hikes in Washington State. The view at the summit encompasses the San Juan Islands, the Olympics, and Vancouver Island, and a secret viewpoint on the other side of the dome provides a peek of the Pacific Ranges rising above Vancouver. The hike up is a good winter workout, although parking for this hike is getting progressively more difficult as the hike's popularity explodes; I'd recommend hiking from Samish Overlook to avoid the hazardous parking situation at the Chuckanut Drive trailhead.
I've hiked this trail twice, once from each trailhead; I'll provide directions here to the Samish Overlook Trailhead as that's the preferred approach. Coming from Seattle with a friend in November, we took I-5 north past Burlington to exit 240, turning left when we came off the exit ramp to head west on Lake Samish Road. Shortly afterwards, we made a left on Barrell Springs Road and then a right onto Blanchard Hill Road; we followed this unpaved road to its end at the Samish Overlook, following signs for the Overlook at the multiple junctions along the way. From the trailhead, we had a gorgeous view south of the lowlands of the Skagit Valley.
Hikers who start from the Chuckanut Road trailhead start with about a mile worth of ascent that packs in nearly 1000 feet as the trail makes broad switchbacks up the slopes of the Chuckanut Mountains; this approach adds a mile and 800 feet of climbing to the hike. Towards the top of the climb, a brief clearing delivers the first view of the hike of Samish Bay. I'd once again like to discourage hikers from using the Chuckanut Drive Trailhead as there is very limited parking at that trailhead.
|View along the Pacific Northwest Trail|
The trail to Oyster Dome climbed very gradually for the next three-quarters of a mile, with slight ups and downs as we crossed multiple creeks. The forest around us was lush, with ferns covering the floor beneath a canopy of cedars and Douglas firs.
|The Salish Sea|
|View from Oyster Dome|
After enjoying the view to the west, we explored the back (northeast) side of the dome, where we found a small gap in the trees that afforded us a view to the north. Besides seeing the nearby ridges of the Chuckanut Mountains, we could also see out into the valley of the Fraser River in Canada; the city of Abbotsford was backed by the beautiful peaks of the Pacific Range. We spotted both Golden Ears and Mount Robie Reid, some of the more easily identifiable of the Canadian peaks.
|Coast Ranges of British Columbia|
On the initial of my two visits to Oyster Dome, I hiked up from Chuckanut Drive and afterwards caught a beautiful sunset over Samish Bay, with the sun disappearing under the horizon between the Olympic Mountains and the San Juans. The second visit, when I hiked from Samish Overlook, was followed by watching dusk set over Samish Bay from far above. Both were magical moments brought alive by the interplay of light and shadow with the water and the surrounding landscape of mountains.
|Sunset on the Salish Sea|