gain: 3785 ft
max: 5897 ft
I did not have my tracking on so I am providing a track from 2013 when I went with Dave and Stacie. There was snow on that hike so there is a very slight deviation for a 200 ft section where we bypassed the trail and walked up the hill in the snow.
gpx track, use at your own risk: Church
Church Mt. is known for it’s switchbacks, I don’t think they are that bad. I have done Church in snow, in summer, just about anytime I can get to the trail. Sometimes I just go to the meadows if I am short on time, often I go to the old lookout site. The structure is no longer intact but the remains of the structure is still there scattered about the hill. There are still cables that you can use to help you up the last little bit if needed. The true summit of Church is a technical climb and you have to have the right gear and know how to get there.
The parking for this hike is reached by driving east on Mt Baker Hwy past Glacier for a ways. The Church Mt. road will be on the left and is well signed. The road is in fine shape and is easily done in a car, there are often many at the trailhead. I came up the night before and slept at the trailhead so I could get an early start up and have the trail to myself.
The first half mile of the trail is on an old road bed that is quite firmly now trail. Then the switchbacks start. I for one am glad they are there! WTA frequently does work on this trail so it is always in great shape, thank you trail crew!
The switchbacks continue for about 2.5 miles through a deep forest, at least this helps keep you cool when you are going up! There will be one major creek near the meadow that can be a water source and I believe it runs year round. While most of the wild flowers have passed, there were still some here by the creek.
At three miles the trail breaks out into the meadow and continues through it to the other side crossing Deer Horn Creek about mid-way through. This is also a year round water source, no lack of water here. This is also the first view of Baker on this hike.
There were a few clouds starting to play around in the meadow when I got there but I knew I would soon be rising above them. The trail starts to climb again on the other side of the meadow and will do several big sweeping switches that will lead to the final approach to the old lookout site. Since I started up so early, I was still alone on the trail not having seen anyone else. I started several ptarmigan and they startled me! This guy just about gave me a heart attack. I was peacefully walking along minding my own business when right next to me a heard a LOUD whistle. I am sure I jumped right up from the trail!
The views from the top are, as always, awesome. I had the top to myself for quite awhile before anyone else made it up.
I did share the top with an adventuresome marmot and a little chipmunk.