Monday, January 26th, 2015
Seeking the Summit of Stewart Mountain – Lake Whatcom Park
Todd Elsworth

I’d seen plenty of pictures on people’s pages of sweeping views looking over Lake Whatcom from atop Stewart Mountain. I wanted my own. After Hoofin’ it on the Hertz Trail, I thought I’d take a quick stab at the summit. I wanted to see what others had seen – and shared. Looking west onto the horizon, I’d admire the setting sun as the silhouette of the land outlined the lake and the edge of the Salish Sea.

This is an example from a “friend of a friend” of what I’m talking about:

StewartMountain-JessicaCarter

Photo credit: Jessica Carter

From the Hertz Trail parking lot at Lake Whatcom Park you have two choices for your path to the summit: The wide open service road (aka Wickersham Truck Trail) or the footpath.

Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken led me with his timeless words, “…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The footpath heads up through the land of moss and ferns.

StewartMountainlowland

As you ascend the trail the sounds of Smith Creek echo below. The angle of the hill is steep and you can look straight down into the creek. The path takes a turn and parallels the open swath of the powerlines that buzz in the distance. The silence and solitude is intermittently interrupted by the chirping of birds and the trickle of small creek crossings.

StewartMountainCar

The trail empties onto the road but it is easy to find your way to the next trail head. I chose to stay on the trail- crossing paths with couples descending. I wanted to get up there and see what others had seen. Finally, I came to my first overlook where I was afforded (I felt I’d earned it) views looking over Sudden Valley and South Lake Whatcom. I believe that the bump in the distance is Alger Alp.

StewartMountainview

I wasn’t to the summit though- so I had to keep on keepin’ on! As I climbed the steep trail I noticed an evident change in the types of trees and the understory as it showed more Oregon Grape with its “pinnate leaves consisting of spiny leaflets” that are prickly to the touch.

StewartMountainhighland

Success is a matter of measure. I came to the park to write about the Hertz Trail but found myself being called to the summit of Stewart. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan in advance for this endeavor. While I had water, I had brought zero fuel and my tummy was starting to growl. That, coupled with the fact that the sun was setting (and I didn’t have a headlamp) didn’t set me up for a successful summit-ting of the mountain. So I simply turned around and headed down the road. From the road and the clearcut of the powerlines I could see across the lake and the fog setting in on the horizon.

StewartMountainpowerline

I believe that I had a successful day and enjoyed my adventure. Next time, I’ll plan a bit more and take my time. If you’re up for a challenge and want to share in the camaraderie of conquering the mountain take a look at this:

Upcoming Event: Stewart Mountain Half Marathon.
Saturday, March 12. Part of the Bellingham Trail Running Series.

Course Description: The second race to the top of Stewart Mountain! The Stewart Mountain Half Marathon starts at North Lake Whatcom Trailhead (Hertz Trail).  The half marathon runs along the beautiful & blue lake Whatcom before heading up Stewart Mountain for a partial out and back, and MY OH MY the views are sweeet! The race descends by taking a single track trail after some logging roads with stunning views of Lake Whatcom and Bellingham.  Runners will enjoy forest and lake views throughout the race.

Elevation Gain: Approximately 3,369 feet!

Good Luck!

 

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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.

3 Comments »

  1. Great story – I love your enthusiasm, and I so love the beautiful Whatcom County area. I am hoping to move there within the year. Can’t wait to have adventures of my own!

    Maureen

    Comment by Maureen Cooke — January 31, 2015 @ 2:28 pm

  2. Love the story! I went up this weekend with some friends but we didn’t make it to the tob. Do you know far it is to the summit? I’d love to reach it next time!
    Thanks 🙂

    Comment by Shannon — April 6, 2015 @ 9:35 am

  3. There are many peaks in the stewart mt. range but two highest “peaks” are Whatcom-Acme which is 3087 feet and Big Foot 3090 ft. Big Foot is on the Bellingham or West side of the range.
    On bike or foot you can go from North Lake Whatcom, up to Whatcom-Acme “peak” and using logging roads, find your way to Big Foot. Then descend down Big Foot towards Y road. You can descend thru the forest or use the logging roads to get close to Mt. Baker highway. Descending thru the forest towards Y road is the best but recent logging activity on the west side of Stewart, will leave stranded in a clear cut. I’m trying to find a way around the clear cut.

    Comment by David Wayne — July 2, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

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