19.2 mi hike through
max: 3076 ft
gain: once on the ridge there were ups and downs, all said and done about 4200 ft gain
gpx track, use at your own risk: Stew Range
I have always wanted to connect the roads/trails up on Stewart by walking the main ridge. Today we walked the magenta route that connects them all up.
It was a bluebird kind of day, the sun was out, there were no clouds hiding the views, just a bit of snow up top to keep it cool. Once up on the spine this walk was entirely on logging roads so some might consider this dumpster diving but I consider it walking.
I had been invited on this walk by a fellow geocache I had never met but once the weekend before but I decided to accept the offer for company and I am glad I did. Turns out we hiked well together and I look forward to other hikes with X-Huey in the future. I had actually tried to walk this spine a few weeks ago but there was too much snow where the trail meets the roads and I did not want to do upwards of 15 miles in knee deep white stuff.
We decided to do this as a hike through leaving a car at each of two trailheads. These were only about 4 mi apart but that would have been 4 miles of paved road walking at the end of a long day and with this being winter it would have been 4 miles of paved road walking in the dark at the end of a long day.
We met at the North Shore trail at 07:00 am (N48 43.814 W122 18.505) left a car there and then drove over to parking at the Y-road Whatcom County Parks parking (N48 46.026 W122 20.630). The easiest way to access the roads up top from this point is to follow the horse trails up. You could just walk the logging access road but why.
We left the road near the bottom where the main trail heads up the mountain, N48 45.925 W122 20.272 We followed that up to where the trail encounters the road for the first time. Go left at the road and walk a few hundred feet until the trail starts again on the right side of the road, N48 46.213 W122 19.245. This segment is shorter than the first and will lead you up through a more recent clear cut/re-planted area. Right before joining back up with another old road the trail splits with the left trail going out a few feet to a view point and a nice spot to have a snack (or cut up your sit pad for shoe inserts). The right hand trail leads to the old road. Going right will connect you up with another old trail but we went right and walked a short distance to where this old road connects with the main road. Here we went right and headed on up. This road is the one they used to log out the hill above last year so it is in good shape until the split, N48 46.491 W122 18.605
The old road to climber’s left is the one you want…the one covered in small downed trees. Push through them, just keep following the old roadbed. I am hopeful that the Backcountry Horsemen will brush this out one day. At the end of this road, look for the trail opposite from the BIG boulder, N48 46.552 W122 18.113
I first found this trail YEARS ago, there was a sign at the time, I think is was #6 but I could be wrong on this one. Following this trail will take you up, up, up. Today there was no snow but the ups are still ups.
We joined up with the roads at N48 46.490 W122 17.552 and from there is was all road walking. There was a little snow most of the way along the spine, just an inch or three. Once we got on the east side of the spine the views to the mountains were spectacular! I could even see Glacier once we were on the south end. We grabbed the south summit, now I have been to all three of the high points on the Stewart Range.
After the south summit the road led up back to the west side of the range and now the views were facing the bay and beyond. As we were hoofing it out the sun was going down so the last mile or so was after sunset but it was a clear night so we were able to walk out without headlamps. The last few hundred feet to the truck was pretty much by feel, it was pretty dark by then. It felt good to sit down and even better to sit down at Wander and drink that Shoe Toss!