Dock Butte

September 27, 2017


Baker Lake / North Cascades Highway, WA

The small summit of Dock Butte offers some of the finest 360-degree panorama on a clear day with Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan and the Baker Lake area dominating the backdrop. The access is very easy with logging roads dispatching more than 1000 m of elevation gain from the valley floor. From the Blue Lake trail-head it’s a mere 1.5-hour hike to reach the summit although this is only true in summer months when the forestry road is free of snow. The best time of a year to hike Dock Butte is late summer or early fall when the bigger objectives are out of shape, or on a day when you simply don’t have enough energy, time or motivation.

This was exactly the case for me in the last week of September. A brief high pressure system granted a couple days of guaranteed sunshine but I could not shift around the work schedule to fully take advantage of it. My daily work does not start from late afternoon though so that meant a half-day hike in the morning could still be in the cards. Dock Butte seemed like a good idea for the first day of this sunny stretch. And to make my life even easier I decided to drive to the trail-head in the previous evening so that I could catch a couple extra hours of sleep. The drive was done by simply following the direction given by my iPhone apps and I did make there before midnight. The logging roads seemed to drag on forever but the conditions were much better than the averaged Canadian roads.

Dock Butte hiking route. GPX DL

The following morning I slept in till 8 am since there’s no need to rush.  This trail is very well signed. At the junction with Blue Lake trail I took the right hand side branch which led me gradually up Dock Butte. The views did not open until much higher up though although through the thinning forest I could get glimpses of Mt. Baker.

Hiking up Dock Butte Trail

First complete view of Mt. Baker

Typical, typical.

Twin Sisters Range coming in view now.

The views completely opened up as I ascended a broad grassy slope towards the summit ridge. This last part is steep and the trail traverses on climber’s right side to avoid attacking an obvious gendarme head-on. The traversy stretches are on the shady north slopes hence quite icy with the morning frost and then the summit is “right there”…

Almost there!

Summit Panorama from Dock Butte. Click to view large size.

Mt. Shuksan on the skyline

A zoomed-in view of Mt. Baker with Squak and Easton Glaciers

Lincoln Peak and Colfax Peak

A closer view at the Twin Sisters

This is looking at Washington Monument in the foreground

One last shot of Mt. Baker

This is a southern horizon, looking down Baker River Valley

Me on the summit of Dock Butte

I lingered on the summit for at least half an hour soaking in the views. I wouldn’t say it’s super duper spectacular but with the effort required this is hard to beat. The descent was pretty much uneventful although I did speed up a bit towards the end. This trip had taken longer than expected and I had to hurry up a bit.

Heading down now…

A pretty neat tarn en route.

After carefully negotiating the twisty and curvy gravel roads down to Baker Lake Road the rest of the drive back to Vancouver, BC was a cruise sailing. The border crossing was without much of a delay and I got back at roughly half an hour before the start of work, and that surely is an excellent timing.