Oyster Dome-Blanchard Mountain Outside of Bellingham
Oyster Dome is an exposed hunk of sheer cliff on Blanchard Mountain. Its base is littered with boulders, talus fields, and bat-breeding caves. Once you reach the top you have amazing views of the Sound, mountains, and a smorgasbord of islands. This is a very popular hiking destination year-round; Oyster Dome is the pearl of the Chuckanut Mountains. Dogs are allowed. You will need a Discover Pass. This is a well-traveled hiking trail, but dress appropriately and carry water so you are hydrated. As with any time you are in the woods it is better if you carry the “10 Essentials” with you.
- Region: North Cascades
- Elev. Gain: 2,000 ft.
- High: 2,050 ft.
- Where: Bellingham, WA
- Distance: 6.25 miles (round trip)
- Difficulty: Strenuous
Oyster Dome is one of my favorite hikes. This classic trail takes you from sea level to a stunning lookout 2,075 feet above with 180 degree views of the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, and Olympic Mountains. There’s also the optional side trip to a talus of diorite boulders affectionately known as the Bat Caves.
Begin right along the side of Chuckanut Drive and head uphill on the Pacific Northwest Trail through thin forest of Douglas firs. In a mile you’ll hit your first viewpoint. At 1.8 miles the trail forks and you’ll want to follow the signs to the left onward to Oyster Dome. Cross a few streams and then hit another intersection in about a half-mile – this time go right.
After climbing steadily for nearly three miles, the trail once again splits; this time with a short trail that leads to the infamous Bat Caves. Following the main trail you will climb steeply for 0.10 mile. You will then make a left when the trail splits (good chance this won’t be signed). A little further and you’re there. A giant, glacially polished, diorite slab gives you plenty of room to find your own spot to stretch out and enjoy the views; it is breathtaking. Set aside at least 30 minutes to eat a snack or lunch if you brought it.
Permits & Tips
Discover Pass is required. No water or toilets at trailhead. Do not leave valuables in your car. Use extreme caution at both the Bat Caves and the top of Oyster Dome. The trail can be very muddy after heavy rain.
How to get there
Head north on I-5 to exit 231. Follow State Route 11 (Chuckanut Drive) north for 10.2 miles. The trailhead is on the right side of the road (watch carefully) just after passing milepost 10. Park along the left (west side) shoulder of the highway.