Lake Ann and Lower Curtis Glacier

Trail Highlights:Mountain views; lake views; glacier views
Round-trip Distance:8.20 miles / 13.20 km
Location:Mt. Baker Wilderness and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Lake Ann Trail),
North Cascades National Park (Lower Curtis Glacier Trail), Mt. Baker / Nooksack Valley,
Washington North Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Nooksack
Directions:From Bellingham, Washington, drive east on State Route 542 56.00 miles/90.00 km to the Austin Pass parking lot on the left
Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites. (Although the Lower Curtis Glacier Trail crosses into the North Cascades National Park, the trail originates in national forest and requires only a national forest pass and not a national park pass.)
Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
U.S. Forest Service
Note:This page profiles the Lake Ann located in Whatcom County, Washington; several other lakes of the same or similar name can be found throughout the Cascades.

What Lake Ann itself lacks in character is more than compensated for by its dramatic setting at the base of Mount Shuksan’s steepled western wall, festooned with dramatically sculpted glaciers creeping inexorably toward their cliffside finales.  The  trail follows the mountainous ridge extending northwest from Mount Shuksan, known as the Shuksan Arm, into a grassy basin spattered with ponds and streams before climbing steeply to the adjoining saddle that cradles Lake Ann.  From the lake, a short side trail crosses into North Cascades National Park as it zigzags up the mountain’s pitched slope to the Lower Curtis Glacier, affording an intimate view of the glacier’s jagged edge and a bird’s-eye glimpse of the Baker River Valley beyond.  Given its ease of access, unique features, and available campsites, the trail is a popular late summer and autumn hike — expect to encounter a few others on the way and along the lakeshore, especially on weekends.

The trail to Lake Ann weaves in and out of forest as it descends into the stream-lined basin along the Shuksan Arm, providing peekaboo views of both Mount Shuksan (here) and Mt. Baker. Lake Ann Trail, Washington.
The Shuksan Arm’s stony wall lines the basin along the trail. Lake Ann Trail, Washington.
On the approach to Lake Ann, the trail climbs a steep saddle at its juncture with the Shuksan Arm, which provides a sweeping view back down into the basin and across to Mt. Baker. Lake Ann Trail, Washington.
Lake Ann pools atop the saddle adjoining the Shuksan Arm. Lake Ann Trail, Washington.
From the shore of Lake Ann, the Shuksan Arm trails into the distance beyond the saddle.
Lake Ann Trail, Washington.
Beside Lake Ann, Mount Shuksan’s lower, western end rises in sharp peaks reminiscent of Italy’s Dolomites. The crevices between the peaks are known as the Fisher Chimneys and form a popular climbing route to the summit.
Lake Ann Trail, Washington.
The Upper and Lower Curtis glaciers drape Mount Shuksan’s rugged western flank. A side trail from Lake Ann climbs the forested slope on the left of this photo to the leading edge of the Lower Curtis Glacier.
Lake Ann Trail, North Cascades National Park, Washington.
The side trail to Lower Curtis Glacier leads across a boggy drainage, where monkeyflowers provide surprising bits of color in the otherwise stony alpine environs. Look for both yellow, or, seep monkeyflowers (Erythranthe guttata) (left) and purple, or, Lewis’s monkeyflowers (Erythranthe lewisii) (right). Lower Curtis Glacier Trail, Washington.
As the side trail to Lower Curtis Glacier climbs, it affords a view down Shuksan Creek, which carries runoff from both the glacier and Lake Ann to the far off Baker Lake and Lake Shannon.
Lower Curtis Glacier Trail, North Cascades National Park, Washington.
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Above the treeline, the side trail to Lower Curtis Glacier ambles across thin, undulating alpine meadows. Baker Lake and Lake Shannon lie in the distance. Lower Curtis Glacier Trail, North Cascades National Park, Washington.
Accumulated decades of snowfall line Lower Curtis Glacier’s deeply crevassed edge, here tipped by a sphinx-like head gazing toward the eventual repositories of its meltwaters, Baker Lake and Lake Shannon. Care should be exercised to avoid falling ice along the glacier’s crumbling wall, as well as the precipitous cliff below.
Lower Curtis Glacier Trail, North Cascades National Park, Washington.

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

2 thoughts on “Lake Ann and Lower Curtis Glacier

  1. Mark Allen says:

    Hello – the third to last photo (side trail to lower curtis glacier) is spectacular! How far is this viewpoint from shore of Lake Ann? Another words how far from the trailhead to this viewpoint? – Thank you!

    1. HesperosFlown says:

      The views along the entire trail are truly stunning — I was reminded of the dramatic landscapes in the “The Lord of the Rings” films. Unfortunately, I have not had opportunity to return since the date of the photos in my trail profile. At that time, the side trail to the Lower Curtis Glacier was not marked. (I only learnt of it from a fellow hiker.) East of Lake Ann (left, as you approach the lake), look for a boot path crossing a boggy meadow and disappearing into the forest below Mount Shuksan. Gazing up at the glacier, you would expect the climb to be daunting, but the trail’s long switchbacks ease the grade. From recollection, it was only about a half mile/0.80 km from Lake Ann to the end of the trail near the glacier, which would make the total one-way distance about 4.60 miles/7.40 km from the trailhead. The photo you referenced was taken about halfway up the side trail. The trail ends beyond the forest at a ridge of large, loose rock that is difficult to traverse. I scrambled up a bit for a better view, but don’t approach the glacier’s unstable ice or the cliff’s edge where it terminates.

      I hope you get to enjoy this amazing trail soon! Write back with any helpful info or interesting developments you find.

      ~ HesperosFlown



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