Our family, along with a few others, started a tradition four or five years ago camping at Baker Lake. It’s become a treasured part of summer vacation.
The beauty of camping with a group of friends is that there’s always someone for the kids to play with, someone to share cooking duty (each family gets a meal to prepare), other parents around to help supervise the little ones, and there are extra dads to tell tall tales around the campfire.
Located within the Mount Baker National Recreation Area, Baker Lake is nine miles of green-blue water surrounded by tree-covered hills. Of course, there’s a breathtaking view of Mount Baker itself, seen from the “opposite” side than the traditional view we see from Bellingham.
Several campsites dot the west side of the lake; we stay at the Horseshoe Cove campground near the southern end of the lake. The campground has three coveted group campsites, two double sites, plus 33 more tent/trailer sites, all within walking distance of the lake. Horseshoe Cove also offers day-use access to the beach as well as a boat launch.
The trip is about a 90-minute drive from Bellingham, and makes for an easy weekend escape, and is even a doable day trip. To reach the lake, you travel south into Skagit County (I like Highway 9), then head east on Highway 20 before turning north into the recreation area and back into Whatcom County.
Near the campground are a number of day hikes suitable for the family (as short as 1 and 3 miles roundtrip). These hikes, combined with just about any kind of fun you can dream up on the lake – swimming, boating, fishing – should be enough to keep kids from uttering that oft-repeated summertime phrase “I’m bored.”
Be aware that Horseshoe Cove is an especially popular campground, so it’s wise to reserve early. While most campsites can be reserved, a few cannot, so you can show up day-of to nab a spot.
For more information on the Horseshoe Cove campground, visit fs.usda.gov/recarea/mbs/recreation/recarea/?recid=17636&actid=29
Headed further east?
Driving further east along Highway 20, the road continues to wind its way through both Whatcom and Skagit counties. Within Whatcom County’s borders are two stops that are a must if you’re taking a scenic drive or traveling further over the mountains to Winthrop and beyond.
North Cascades National Park Visitor Center – Shortly before reaching Newhalem, the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center is an excellent place for a stretch break with modern amenities. (By this I mean flushing toilets and running water. For those who find pit toilets intimidating, this stop is a must before heading over the mountains.) The Visitor Center is a beautiful lodge-like structure with fun, interactive interpretive exhibits that the kids will enjoy exploring. Who could resist a larger-than-life stuffed banana slug? Short, well-groomed trails are ideal for kids to who need to get their wiggles out.
The North Cascades Institute Learning Center is located on Diablo Lake, home to classes for adults, youths and families. Local tour companies do have boat tours, but even a short excursion driving over the dam to get up close to that beautiful water is worth the stop.
The vibrant glacier-fed, blue-green waters of Ross Lake also beckon drivers to stop and marvel its beauty.