47 – Shadow of the Sentinels and Baker Hot Springs

Both easy, relatively short trails in the Baker Lake area and quite spectacular in their own unique ways, we combined the Shadow of the Sentinels and Baker Hot Springs for another day of hiking. Having checked for vacancies days before when we decided to hike the Baker Lake Trail (see Hike #46 – Baker Lake Trail), hiking turned into a wonderful vacation. Carefully tucked into the woods and comfortably furnished with meticulous attention to details, after a quick stop at the local grocery, in no time we were enjoying a home cooked dinner in our own cabin at Grace Haven. Our boots, damp from the many stream crossings during our day of hiking, sat drying in the warmth of the fireplace as we looked over trail maps in anticipation of more hiking.

Ready to prepare dinner . . . at the cabin at Grace Haven

Before hitting the trails the next morning, our first stop was the Upper Baker Dam. My father worked at both of the dams along the Baker River when I was a child, and while I have visited the Lower Baker Dam on many occasions (see Fish Taxi and Upper Skagit Hiking for photos from some of my more recent visits to the lower dam), it felt very special to me to finally make my first visit to this much larger upper dam. Driving to the other side of the dam along the one-lane road running over the top, we walked part way back along that same road to take in the view.

Upper Baker Dam . . . road over the top

Our first trail for the day was the Shadow of the Sentinels. An interpretive trail with signs about the Douglas fir and cedar trees, some over 500 years old, this less than a mile long trail, mostly an elevated boardwalk, provides a different perspective as it winds its way above the ancient forest floor. Getting to the Shadow of the Sentinels trailhead is quite easy. Simply follow State Route 20 east from Sedro Woolley, WA, for 17 miles to milepost 82. Turn left onto the Baker Lake Highway (Forest Service Road #11) and continue another 15 miles. The trailhead and parking area is well signed and located on the right just past the Komo Kulshan Guard Station.

600+ year old Douglas fir . . . Shadow of the Sentinels

Just finding our next destination, the Baker Hot Springs, was a fun adventure. Having apparently fallen out of most of the area hiking books except, perhaps, Hiking Whatcom County by Ken Wilcox, even with book in hand, it was not an easy trail to find. Some of the roads mentioned appeared to have changed, and others were slated for closure. Dodging pot hole after pot hole with the car, the road twisted and turned through the forest as we climbed in elevation before starting to drop back down again. Parking along the side of the road to get out and walk a stretch, even once trailblazing through an old, long-closed and overgrown logging road, we continued to search for the trail. Having purchased a beach towel from that same well-stocked store where we had gotten our dinner groceries the evening before, we were determined not to give up too easily. Parking to walk along the road one more time, this time, well ahead of where we had parked, finally the parking area referred to in the book – and the trailhead were spotted.

A fairly well-worn trail through a beautifully plush forest, it was not long before we were at the hot springs, and could see its steam rising.

We got in. Having the entire place to ourselves, even though we had considered the idea of going on yet another hike that same afternoon, almost immediately we changed our minds about hiking – and enjoyed a very long, luxurious soak in the forest. Immersed in warm, bubbling mineral water as birds sang to us from the trees above, how could we resist?

More photos of our cabin at Grace Haven, our visit to the Upper Baker Dam and our hikes through the Shadow of the Sentinels and to the Baker Hot Springs:

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