Last week’s Trailblazers post was all about airy exposure and rubbing noses with Mt. Baker, but this hike is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The Horseshoe Bend trail travels 2.4 miles round-trip through old growth cedar and fir, hugging the curves of the North Fork Nooksack River. The path itself is very well established and features a few sets of stairs and walkways that make the hiking easy-going.
For the entirety of the trail you’ll be able to hear the river gurgle and churn on its way to the sea. During this outing the water was a cloudy tan color, most likely caused by silt from glacial streams feeding into it.
Beginning at the trail head, the path heads upstream and maintains a fairly level elevation. Native plants like salal, devil’s club and all manner of ferns stretch out in all directions.
About a mile in, there is a broad sandy bar alongside the river that makes for excellent relaxing. Kick back a while and enjoy watching the various river birds plunging for a meal.
You can tell how wet this place is year-round by the thick mats of moss, clinging to anything within 50 feet of the river. In some cases it envelops entire trees. Be on the lookout for some of the larger old growth trees here, their presence gives the forest an ancient feel.
The trail ends at a large bend in the river, aptly named Horseshoe Bend. Here the river is constantly attempting to take the straightest course possible, and eventually the bend will cease to exist.
This trail would be an excellent warm up for a longer hike, or as a quick jaunt while you’re in the area. It would be particularly nice if you were staying at the Douglas Fir Campground, which connects to the trail beneath the Mt. Baker Highway.
After you’ve completed your trek for the day, this author recommends a slice of pizza and whatever’s on tap at the Chair 9 restaurant just down the road. A perfect end to a day exploring.
Directions: Drive East on the Mt. Baker Highway for 34 miles until the town of Glacier. Continue until you pass into the Mt. Baker National Forest and park at the roadside lot directly across from the Douglas Fir Campground.