Monday, November 7, 2016

Park Butte and Railroad Grade

Along with the Scott Paul trail, the Park Butte and Railroad Grade trails are part of complex of trails on the south side of Mount Baker.  The Railroad Grade trail, which has nothing to do with railroads but is a steady climb up the edge of a glacial moraine, is also the climbers' route for the south face of Mount Baker.  These are trails I've had on my list for years but for one reason and another have never hiked.

I left very early in the morning (my wife had other responsibilities) and arrived while it was still dark.  I slept for a couple hours in the car worrying about the rain I could hear falling and wondering if I should just drive back home.  By 7:30 when it was light enough to start hiking, the rain had stopped and the day steadily improved until Baker, for a little while, was clear of clouds, though they soon moved in again.

The trails all start at the same trail head though the Scott Paul trail very soon heads off to the east.  The Park Butte and Railroad Grade trails are the same for the first two and half miles.  At the junction I went left and west in the direction of Park Butte with the old fire lookout at the top of the butte soon visible, but I was also soon hiking in snow and about the half the hike was in about six inches of wet snow.

All along the trail there were numerous fungi and mushrooms and I stopped for photos of many of them including some spectacular Amanitas.  The autumn color and the blueberries were finished, however, though the dead grasses and leaves still provided some color.  There were  no wildflowers blooming either - all were finished - but there was plenty to photograph including several creeks I had to cross.

As the trail climbed to the top of Park Butte Mount Baker remained swathed in clouds, though the Black Buttes were periodically visible.  Some of the surrounding peaks to the west and south were visible and the view from the fire lookout was spectacular.  I had snack there and then headed back down the trail with wet and cold feet from all the snow and water on the trail but enjoying the views nonetheless.

Back at the junction of the Park Butte and Railroad Grade trails, I hesitated between heading back to the car and hiking up Railroad Grade and finally decided on the latter since it appeared the Mount Baker was starting to clear of clouds.  I was happy with my decision since by the time I reached the glacial moraine up which the trail runs, Baker was nearly free of clouds and continued to clear as I hiked on.

The trail up the moraine is a bit precarious especially with snow on the trail and I proceeded with care, turning back finally when the snow became deeper and the trail even more precarious.  Mount Baker was completely covered with snow and certainly lived up to its native name, Koma Kulshan, the Great White Watcher.  By the time I arrived back at the car, however, the clouds had moved in again.

Sulphur Creek (near the trail head

dawn at Schreiber's Meadows

Fly Amanita

Schreiber's Meadows

Survey Point

the trail


drainage from Easton Glacier

a very wet morning after the rain

leaving Schreiber's Meadows


Rocky Creek

more rain drops

Skagit River valley and Glacier Peaks Wilderness to the south

Fly Amanita touched by frost

Conifer Coral Fungus

Morovitz Meadows

along the Park Butte trail



view to the south

Black Buttes

view to the north

Twin Sisters

Twin Sisters and the Nooksack River valley

on the way up to Park Butte

Easton Glacier with Mount Baker obscured by clouds

hiking in snow

Mount Baker (still behind the clouds) and Black Buttes

peaks to the south

Skagit River valley

views from Park Butte

Park Butte fire lookout where I had my lunch

Twin Sisters from the lookout

Nooksack River Valley from the lookout

Black Buttes from the lookout

leaving the lookout

lookout from below

peaks to the south

Skagit River valley

Black Buttes

Glacier Peak

Morovitz Meadows

Park Butte and the lookout from Morovitz Meadows

Conifer Coral Fungus

starting up the Railroad Grade trail

starting to clear

Park Butte and the view northwest

Sitka Mountain Ash

near Railroad Grade

on the moraine and looking back

Park Butte and the meadows below Railroad Grade

Easton Galcier

Twin Sisters

Mount Baker nearly clear of clouds

the south slopes of Mount Baker

Black Buttes and Lincoln Peak

Black Buttes, Lincoln, Colfax and Baker from Railroad Grade

Mount Baker

looking back down the trail

looking up the trail

Lincoln and Colfax Peaks

Colfax Peak

headed back down

unidentified mushroom

Morovitz Meadows

another unidentified mushroom

Woolly Gomphus

autumn color

Schreiber's Meadows

Easton Glacier Drainage

Fly Amanitas

Sulphur Creek


  1. So many gorgeous views!!! Great series!!

    1. Thanks, Fizzie. These are trails I intend to do again.

  2. A magnificent series, Ron. Looks like you really enjoyed your trek. Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas. Amelia

    1. Thanks, Amelia, and happy holidays to you and yours.


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