Being a huge fan of scenic vistas, I decided that I absolutely must do the famed Oyster Dome hike.
But I did it the sneaky way (cutting 2 miles off the total RT distance). There’s a road to the Samish Overlook, just off the freeway at exit 240 – Alger. Head west on Lake Samish Road, then take a left onto Barrel Springs Road. There is a gravel road with a small “Blanchard Mountain Trails” sign, or some arrangement of those words, and you follow this road (avoiding potholes) and the signs pointing towards the Samish Overlook for about ~8 miles? This is just a guess, I could be totally wrong. The point is, you will arrive and you will know that you are there.
The overlook is SO COOL! Apparently it’s a common place for hang gliding/paragliding. AND BOY DO I WANT TO TRY THAT!!! I don’t want to ruin the Oyster Dome hike but… it’s honestly the same view from the overlook as it is at the top. But it is quite enjoyable to hike I suppose and you are higher in elevation so technically you do see more… ANYWAY:
The trail leaves the overlook parking lot, meeting up with the Chuckanut Drive trail after about 0.5 m. It is an option to park on Chuckanut and start the hike from there but it’s an extra mile of walking straight uphill, so don’t. The trail continues through the woods. It’s pretty well-marked except when you get to the last fork (hint: go left at the unmarked fork). Only one part of the hike is a real hardcore non-stop super climb, but the rest is fairly gradual. There are many stream crossings and mud though. But the parts that are uphill are usually just a conglomerate of rocks and roots that you must figure out how to maneuver up. Far harder on the way down than the way up. This hike took me 1.25 hours. I would rate the hike “moderately easy” though I’m not sure what I would rate as hard. My scale is flawed. If it is possible for me to do it, I consider it in the range of easy to moderate.
One of many.
There is a rocky outcrop at the top and it appears as though it is a common spot for rock climbers as there was rock climbing equipment everywhere. At the top (like at the Samish Overlook…) there is a commanding view of the Skagit Valley, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Mountains. Seeing farmland from above is really cool, like a giant patchwork of vegetable matter. LOVE IT. You can also smell the shellfish farms (the TAYLOR Shellfish Farms…) which is really bizarre when you are so far up a mountain and in the deep forest.
Talus pile; there is an optional side trail to this. Apparently there are caves. And bats. I didn’t go.
It took me 45 minutes to get back to the parking lot. Lovely day. By the way, I didn’t see a single other person until I was about halfway down on the return trip. That’s what I like about early morning hiking; you get a whole entire mountain to yourself. But really these photos are sort of making me depressed. They in no way capture the amazing view that is the Samish Overlook/Oyster Dome. You’ll have to just go there yourself.