Ahh the Bat Caves! You’ve heard so much about them, but do you dare to go there yourself? This is a great hike for Halloween…if you like to be scared!
Actually, there aren’t bats at the Bat Caves (anymore). Some people say there once was some rare species of bat that inhabited the caves at some point, but no one seems to know what type of bat they were or when they were last sighted, if ever.
None-the-less, the ‘caves’ are nestled within a gloomy patch of dank forest, with lots of dead trees, spiders, mud, and shadowy, spooky things to help you work up a good fright.
The ‘caves’ are not actual holes in a hillside, but are formed by massive chunks of rock that have piled up below the Oyster Dome, forming crevices and caverns that feel very much like true caves. It is possible to crawl over, under and through this maze of boulders, though it is slick and dangerous. If you hike alone, or if you don’t know where you are going (or much about rock climbing) play it safe and stay on the outer fringe of the boulder field.
Directions to the Bat Caves:
There are two three ways to reach the Bat Caves:
1) Start at the Pacific Trailhead on Chuckanut Drive, about 50 feet past the Oyster Bar Restaurant. Hike uphill 1.8 miles to the first junction in the trail. Stay to the left at this junction, going right will take you to the top of Mount Blanchard and the Lookout. Once you go left you will hike another mile or so until you reach the junction marked “Talus Trail” and “Bat Caves”. Take this trail over the ghetto bridge and arrive at the Bat Caves in less than 1/4 mile. You will know the Bat Caves when you reach the boulder field and are able to look up and see the Oyster Dome. Total hike is about 5 miles, round trip.
Bat Caves: Look up to see the Oyster Dome
2) You can cheat by driving up Mount Blanchard and parking at the lookout where the hang gliders launch. The trailhead is to the west of the parking lot, and is marked “Oyster Dome“. Take this downhill .5 miles to a subtle junction. If you don’t miss the sign for this junction, it will point out the Oyster Dome, Talus Trail, and LIly Lake, but says nothing about the Bat Caves. Stay to the right at this junction and continue about a mile (though it feels like more) until you see a sign marked “Talus Trail” and “Bat Caves”. Cross the crude bridge and you are almost there! You will pass some large rocks, but these are not the Bat Caves. You will know the Bat Caves when you reach the boulder field, where you can look up and see the Oyster Dome looming above. Total hike is about 3 miles round trip.
3) It may be possible to reach the Bat Caves from the far side of Lily Lake. I’m not sure how to access the head for this trail though. If it is possible, it would make for a fairly level walk, except for the last .5 miles or so.. If anyone knows if this is possible, share your secret!
Signage: Awful. Don’t give up though, you’ll find it. Your best bet is to ask the other hikers on the trail which way to go.
Views: Great! If you hike up from Chuckanut Drive on a clear day, you will experience peek-a-boo views of the San Juan Islands. There is a bench maybe one mile into the hike, where you can pause to drink in the water and islands from a different angle. The rest of the hike is forest views, and pretty confined at the Bat Caves.
Dogs OK: YES, not recommended if you want to try to penetrate the boulder field at the Bat Caves.
Kids OK: Know your own kids. Kids are not recommended if you want to try to penetrate the boulder field at the Bat Caves. When I was at the Bat Caves there were other hikers there who managed to get their kids pretty deep into the maze of boulders. These people were skilled rock climbers though, and had the necessary safety gear for such a feat. I do not recommend it.
After you’ve found the Bat Caves, be sure to check out the other points of interest along the Pacific Trail.