Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
Cross Country Skiing at Razor Hone Creek’s Cougar Loop off Mount Baker Highway
Todd Elsworth

The Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) from Bellingham provides access to groomed cross-country skiing trails in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. Salmon Ridge Sno Park is just 13 miles past the community of Glacier, which is the last outpost for supplies before you enter the wilderness.

Heads up: To park, a Washington State Sno-Park Pass is required to go this route.

The Razor Hone Route Details

  • Time: 4 hours (for us)

From the Salmon Ridge Sno Park, you have a handful of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails to choose from. On this outing, we wanted to head up the Razor Hone Creek Trail that parallels the North Fork of the Nooksack River for an end of the season ski tour.

According to Nooksack Nordic Ski Club, the Razor Hone Road Area is a great mix of difficulty levels with the trails ranging from easy to one being the most difficult.

Map note: The bridge is not out as noted. You can ski over Razor Hone Creek on Cougar Loop.

We decided to take Razor Hone’s groomed tracks towards Blueberry Bounce, onto the beginning of Cougar Loop. On this route, there is a slight elevation gain for a one-mile climb at Blueberry Bounce. From here we began our way towards the Cougar Loop, which is rated at intermediate difficulty.

Be sure to pack a lunch! The Nooksack Nordic Ski Club shares that at the end of this trail is a beautiful view of a waterfall and Bagley Creek.

From here there is a footbridge, to get to follow the next section of Cougar Loop. Here you will approach the Bear Hill trail back to Razor Hone Рthis section does have steep sections as is noted as Most Difficult,  with areas that fluctuate from easy to more difficult sections.

For more details, follow up with Razor Hone Trail Description from the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club.

Our Trip

We had our hearts set on squeezing in one more ski day before all the snowpack makes it’s way downriver into the mash tuns of the local breweries.¬† Praise the Nooksack River and the surrounding watershed.¬†Seriously, this is why the beer is so good and plentiful in Bellingham.

My ski partner had some newfangled equipment with fancy bindings that required a quick tutorial from the local expert, Pete Tryton, with the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club. We recognized Pete’s prowess from the email we had reviewed the night before, determining our route for the day.

The NNSC newsletter read, “This might be a great time to ski up to the bridge on the Cougar loop.¬† If you haven‚Äôt done this before, I would recommend taking the first turn to the right, pictured, and go up the first leg of the Cougar Loop.¬† If it is too steep for you, turn around.¬† The last little bit down to the bridge is not groomed.¬† Feel free to take your skis off and walk this section if you think appropriate. Going to the far end and making the full loop is a fun trip, but should not be your introduction to the trail.”

After getting our skis situated and joking that my equipment is from well into the last century, we followed Pete to the trail map so we could review our options to do the loop.  From the trailhead at the sign, obvious arrows direct people on the correct path for the dedicated snowshoe, cross-country and skate ski tracks.

We like to have fun and couldn’t help but make jokes about being on the Cougar Loop. Pete gave us the insight we needed to make the right decisions about our approach and completion of the loop.

We followed Pete’s path around the gate and onto Razor Hone Road. It was freshly groomed and the three sets of tracks had been established earlier in the day. On the left-hand side is the smooth ski tracks for the classic cross-country skiers; the middle is reserved for the skate skiers; and the right for snowshoes. As shown on the trail map, the road is a green run- yes there is elevation gain and some corners, but nothing too intimidating.

Cougar Loop

We chose to stay to the left and follow the road up the river and head straight out to Cougar Spur and assess if we wanted to do the climb in the clockwise direction. The sun was out, the wind took the day off, and the skis were performing- so we decided to go for it. We’d do the Cougar Loop!

At the decision-making point where the loop trail breaks off to the right, the trail climbs up an immediate steep incline to let you know what you’re getting in for in the route ahead. It was exhilarating to be out on skis in the woods,¬† so the climb didn’t seem so bad. With smiles on our faces, we made the ascent.

The trail winds up and down, and back up, before descending back to the finish line. We stopped for a picnic and a refreshing beverage in a sunspot. It’s always amazing how much better food and cold beer taste when you’ve just earned it and you’re out in the middle of nowhere, alone.

I like kneeling in the snow to help numb my knees when I stop skiing, as a little natural ice pack. In my advancing age, I need little things like this to get me through the journey since I’m turning 50 this year.

In Bellingham fashion, we enjoyed some local beer on our adventure.

After a relaxing afternoon picnic, we got ready to get back on skis, except I discovered that I needed to do some trail-side repairs. The bottom sheet on my decades-old classic Trak skis had delaminated. No surprise. No problem. I carry electrical tape in my first aid kit and was able to tie it all together for the ski out.

Check out BasecampBellingham.org and use the hashtag #BasecampBellingham when you share your own Bellingham based adventures.

Making our way out of the woods, we came across the bridge that crosses Razor Hone Creek. Stopping on the bridge, we were in awe, surrounded by the beauty of the melting forest floor.

The sounds of rushing water beneath the bridge added to our sense of serenity with nature. We are determined to come back in summer and swim in the inviting pools that sit between the cascades on the landscape.

Blueberry Bounce

We enjoyed the ski out- down what is referred to as Blueberry Bounce on the map above. Once you find the groove and get on the tracks, you can really scoot down hill. We have some fun on the way down as the video goes to show: Cross Country Skiing Cougar Loop. Tuck it!

Our total trip was about 4 hours of frolicking on our skis in the forest. We were in no hurry and took ample breaks to soak in the sun and the sounds of the melting snow-pack. I was also glad that my MacGyver fix held steady to the end.

Connect with Pete and the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club to stay tuned in to what’s happening out on the ski trails.

More Mount Baker Area Cross Country Ski Stories

X-C Skiing from the Glacier Creek Sno-Park in Mount Baker Wilderness

Seeking Cross-Country Ski Solitude in the Shadow of Mount Shuksan

Cross Country Skiing near Mount Baker

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at RecreationNorthwest.org.