Chain Lakes and Table Mountain

Trail Highlights:Mountain views; lake views; panoramic views; geologic features
Round-trip Distance:≅ 8.00 miles / 12.90 km (Chain Lakes Loop - distance may vary by route)
2.00 / 3.20 km (Bagley Lakes Loop only)
2.20 miles / 3.50 km (Table Mountain Trail)
Location:Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest,
Mt. Baker / Nooksack Valley, Washington North Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Nooksack
Directions:From Bellingham, Washington, drive east on State Route 542 up to 59.00 miles/95.00 km to the highway's end and choose one of three parking lots in the last 4.00 miles/6.40 km, depending on the desired trailhead
  • The Bagley Lakes lot at 55.00 miles/88.50 km accesses the the Bagley Lakes Trail
  • The Austin Pass lot at 56.00 miles/90.00 km accesses the lower Wild Goose trailhead
  • The Artist Point lot at 59.00 miles/95.00 accesses the upper Wild Goose trailhead and Chain Lakes Loop
  • Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:U.S. Forest Service (Chain Lakes Loop)
    Washington Trails Association (Chain Lakes Loop)
    Washington Trails Association (Table Mountain)
    Washington Trails Association (Bagley Lakes Loop)

    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    The loop trail rings Table Mountain, shown here reflected on Hayes Lake, one of several linked along its northwest corner and collectively known as the “Chain Lakes.” Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.

    A 360-degree panorama radiates from Table Mountain, encompassing Mt. Baker, Mount Shuksan, Mount Herman, and the crinkled landscape of surrounding ridges and valleys.  In contrast to its rugged neighboring peaks, Table Mountain is a flat-topped, roughly L-shaped massif thought to be the remains of a lava lake.  Curious patterns in its stone attest to its formation from a molten state.  The Chain Lakes Loop trail circles the mountain, with a short side trail up to its prominent eastern pinnacle.  The 2.00-mile/3.20-km loop trail around Bagley Lakes may be hiked separately or as part of the overall loop, extending its round-trip distance to approximately 8.00 miles/12.90 km.  Consistent with its name, the loop trail links a series of lakes (sometimes called the Galena Chain Lakes) strung around the foundations of Table Mountain’s imposing walls, with either Mt. Baker or Mount Shuksan — or both — nearly always in sight.

    The loop trail can be hiked from either Austin Pass or Artist Point, both of which provide ample parking and are linked by the steep, Wild Goose portion of the trail.  (The Wild Goose Trail can be difficult to discern in places, especially where it is intersected by Highway 542 and many crisscrossing footpaths.  When uncertain, look for mortared stone cairns marked with blue and white badges depicting a goose in flight to guide the way.)  This profile begins at Austin Pass and proceeds clockwise up the Wild Goose Trail, taking a side jaunt to Table Mountain’s topside.  The easily accessed loop trail is not as heavily trafficked as one might expect from the crowded parking lot and footpaths around Artist Point, which afford stunning views in their own right; nevertheless, one will periodically encounter other hikers and campers along the way.  The steep and potentially vertigo-inducing side trail to the top of Table Mountain is even less travelled. However you choose to enjoy this unique mosaic of trails, peaks, and lakes, there will be no shortage of views.

    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Impressive views begin immediately. Here, Table Mountain sweeps upward to its eastern tower from the great Bagley Lakes Basin. The other end of the loop trail threads the pass between Table Mountain and Mount Herman’s dome beyond and rounds Bagley Lakes at the lower right. Wild Goose Trail/Chain Lakes Loop, August 09, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Along Table Mountain’s southern edge, on both the Chain Lakes Loop and the Table Mountain Trail, Mt. Baker’s snow-clad cone figures prominently in the view. Table Mountain Trail, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Outcrops of stone fractured into slabs, benches, and columns, neatly stacked as if by human hand, are characteristic features of Table Mountain. Wild Goose Trail/Chain Lakes Loop, August 09, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    The Table Mountain Trail, in some sections very narrow and presenting some exposure, winds up and around the mountain to its eastern prominence, affording grand views of Mount Shuksan reclining majestically on the horizon. Here, the parking lot at Artist Point is visible far below. Table Mountain Trail, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    As the Table Mountain Trail rounds upward, Austin Pass and the sky-tinged Bagley Lakes lie directly below.
    Table Mountain Trail, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Although it appears flat from a distance, the surface of Table Mountain is a vast wasteland of heaped boulders and loose, tile-like scree, punctuated by sandy tarns that often dry up in the summer months. Beyond the mountain’s eastern peak, trails disappear into the shifting stone, rendering further progress difficult. Table Mountain Trail, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Table Mountain’s beetling ledges loom like gargoyles jutting above the Chain Lakes Loop on its southern flanks.
    Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Vast, empty slopes sprawl southward from Table Mountain and eventually drop into wooded creek valleys riven from deeper, even older volcanic deposits. Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    A fortress-like butte guards the eastern end of Ptarmigan Ridge, which arcs nearer Mt. Baker.
    Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Moisture and greenery return to the landscape near Mazama Lakes, first in the series of lakes encountered in a clockwise circuit of Table Mountain. Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    In contrast with much of the trailside’s stony barrens, a few blooms appear where sufficient moisture permits, including monkey-flowers (Erythranthe sp.) (left); asters (likely alpine leafybract asters, Symphyotrichum foliaceum) (upper right); and fringed grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata) (lower right). Chain Lakes Loop, August 09, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Iceberg Lake’s placid waters mirror Mazama Dome and Table Mountain. The cleft between Mazama Dome and Table Mountain (and Mount Herman beyond) is Herman Pass, where the loop trail begins its descent into the Bagley Lakes Basin. Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    The loop trail crosses the narrow strip of land between Iceberg Lake and Hayes Lake before ascending Herman Pass. A side trail leads to the far end of Hayes Lake, beyond which unofficial boot paths may be followed with some difficulty to neighboring Arbuthnot Lake. Here, Mazama Dome unites with its own reflection on Hayes Lake to form a stony orb.
    Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    From the Herman Saddle, the great columnar joints in the hardened lava that forms Table Mountain are visible in the vertical striations along its northern tip. Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Where the trail descends the opposite side of Herman Pass and into the Bagley Lakes Basin, vast talus slopes fan down from Table Mountain’s eastern ridge as Mount Shuksan returns to view. Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.
    Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.
    Near the trail’s end, eventide settles on the Bagley Lakes and softly illuminates Goat Mountain and Point 6891 beyond. Chain Lakes Loop, August 10, 2015.

    © 2016-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.

    Share this page here:

    Discussion

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.