Sumas Mountain (WA)

May 7, 2022


Bellingham, WA

There are two Sumas Mountains not far from the Canada/U.S. border and not far from each other. In May 2020 I did the one in B.C. which is also known as Sumas Peak, and this time I would do Sumas Mountain in Washington. Both peaks have over 800 m prominence. This peak is very close to home and can be easily done as a before-work exercise. There are a few ways to tag the summit. Most peak-baggers did the drive-up or a partial drive-up via Paradise Valley from NE, but Matt J. insisted to hike the full elevation profile from the west, via “Gold Mine Trail/Ridge Trail”. This trail system is shown on my Gaia map but lacks some detailed description. In any case I was not expecting much from this hike other than turning another “red dot” green on the peakbagger app but it turned out way better than expected. I also shot Selena Eon an invite at the last minute and she was game despite the early meet-up time.

The weather for Saturday was looking miserably but the mid-morning was actually not too terrible with only 1 mm of precipitation in our regions. When Matt picked me up at 6 am the weather was actually “mostly sunny”. The border crossing was without event so we made to the trail-head earlier than expected. Selena also arrived earlier than expected after having to wake up at 4:30 am and drive up from Issaquah. Matt and I had the border crossing to content with but Selena had a much longer drive. I never get why the B.C. hikers intentionally ignore the peaks in Washington. The drive to the North Cascades is actually shorter for us coming from Vancouver than for those based in Seattle.

Sumas Mountain via Gold Mine Trail. GPX DL

The parking and the start of this trail is actually in someone’s private property but the owner kindly put up a path for us hikers to go through, which we greatly appreciated as they could totally just close the area and put up “no trespassing” signs like most Canadian rural communities do. Right off the bat I realized that this hike might actually be a nice one. The ascent through the lower forest reminded me Squak Mtn. that I did recently in Issaquah area. The trail was muddy at places, but overall well-maintained and easy to follow. At the first junction we turned right towards the mine site and the plan was to take the cabin route on the way back closing in a loop. We then ascended a dozen switchbacks gaining elevation rapidly. By around 650 m elevation zone the slope angle finally mellowed out and then we had an easy plod onto the peak’s NW Ridge where we actually found a few nice viewpoints. Those who chose to drive up from Paradise Valley would miss out all these views. This NW Ridge section was the finest of the whole hike.

Matt starting the hike. This part of the trail is literally in someone’s ranch land
Selena plodding up the typical trail in the lower forest
Started to gain elevation more rapidly after the cabin/mine junction
Sun beams seemed rather elusive in this spring
Unexpected blue sky views given the gloomy forecast
A zoomed-in view towards Vedder Mountain that straddles the BC/WA border
Twig, Selena and me plodding up the NW Ridge
Twig playing as usual…
Our group shot on one of the better viewpoints on Sumas Mtn.’s NW Ridge
The second or the third viewpoints on the ridge
The ridge was very pleasant
To properly pose for Instagram you kind of have to a bit closer to the edge…
Selena ascending the upper NW Ridge right below the summit area plateau

Upon reaching the next intersection we turned right losing fair a bit of elevation to descend onto an overgrown logging road on this upper Sumas Mountain’s plateau. The upper reach of this hike was the worst of all. We followed this road to as close to the true summit as possible but the last 100 horizontal meters had to be bushwhacked no matter what. The true summit was basically in the middle of a re-planted zone and the young trees were extremely dense. I could totally see how dumpster-ish this peak would be if one just did the drive-and-thrash but for us the suffering was only a small fraction of the total hike. It’s difficult to determine where exactly was the highest point so we just thrashed to where the “red dot” on the peakbagger app was and called it there. There’s absolutely no view whatsoever.

Onto the overgrown logging road now
The tight bushwhack to the true summit… Fun times.

Matt then led us down a different line hoping for less intense bushwhacking but the result was rather same. We even had to cross a swampy area trying to balance on some slippery logs. The timbers were still tight. The rest of the descent on the trail was uneventful and fun and our round trip time was exactly 3 hours. Matt and I then drove to Bellingham for a much-needed pizza lunch and then went north to embrace the border traffics, which took about 40 minutes.

Me bushwhacking…
Selena and I looked pretty stoked…
Matt led us down into this jungle of swamps
Me and Selena used our respective logs to cross that swamp
Selena was less than 2 meter in front of me but I could barely see her…
Finally back on the trail… It rained and snowed briefly
Matt and Twig playing on that same viewpoint in the rain/mist
Descending into the mid-forest zone
Me and Selena descending slippery trails. We were on an old trail here
The rain passed and more blue skies showed up
Selena gets to play with Twig
Matt descending a steep part of the trail
The cabin side of the loop hopped onto some old logging roads
The elusive Sumas Mountain cabin
More about this cabin…
Twig never says no to more exercise…
The hike-out was rather pleasant in mostly sunny weather
Black cows in the ranch at the trail-head
The long border wait at 11 am on a Saturday. Understandable…
Twig is always positive about long waits…