The Pacific Trail (Oyster Dome, Bat Caves, Mount Blanchard)

The Pacific Trail is said to stretch from the Puget Sound to Montana.  While I don’t know anyone who claims to have traversed the entire 1100 miles, the 10 miles or so that wind through Chuckanut Ridge and across Mount Blanchard provide one of Bellingham’s most spectacular hikes.

Pacific Trail Forest

Pacific Trail Forest

There are four points of interest along this section of the Pacific Trail, the Oyster Dome is unanimously the main attraction, followed closely by the Bat Caves, the Lookout, and last and rightfully the least, Lily Lake.  If you are ambitious, you can take in all four sights in one day, a round trip of no more than 10 miles.

You can access the Pacific Trail from Chuckanut Drive, or if you want to cheat, drive to the lookout at the top of Mount Blanchard.  The trailhead on Chuckanut Drive is poorly marked.  You’ll need to look to your left about fifty feet after passing the Oyster Bar Restaurant.  If you see a lot of cars parked on the shoulder, you know you are close.  Keep looking, it really is there.

Don’t expect the signage to get any better once you’ve found the trailhead.  One reason why I took in all four sights in one day is because I wasn’t sure which way to go to get to the places I really wanted to see.  The signs are crude, poorly placed, and spurradic.  The final fork to Lily Lake isn’t marked at all, and if the Bat Caves are what you are looking for, no mention of them is made on any signs until you reach the junction with Talus Trail, and by then you have hiked more than 2 miles, passed two other junctions, and are less than 1/4 mile from your destination.  Be advised.

Trail Ratings:

Signage: Poor

Views: Mixed, Specatular at the Oyster Dome and the Lookout, confined at the Bat Caves, somewhat scenic (seasonally) at Lily Lake.

Dogs OK: Yes, leash may be required at the top of the Oyster Dome.  Don’t bring the dog if you think you will want to try penetrating the boulder field at the Bat Caves.  Skilled rock climbing is required, much too dangerous for dogs.

Kids OK: Know your kids.  Some people take their kids into the boulder fields at the Bat Caves.  This is very dangerous with slick heights atop the boulders and areas of unstable footing, suitable only for experienced rock climbers.  Better to keep the kids on the outer fringe of the boulders where there are caves enough worthy of exploration.  I do not recommend bringing kids to the top of the Oyster Dome.  The cliff is sheer.  It’s very tempting to stand at the edge, where there is no barrier and the drop is several hundred feet, but again, know your kids.

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