Steep switchbacks quickly take you up and up through tall pines shooting from a flourishing forest floor. In between the trees the bright blue of Samish Bay can be seen mixing with the sky.
The trail continues to wind up through the forest. At times, the 5.3 mile path is punishingly steep. Abruptly, the woods are replaced by a breathtaking view. To sit in nature’s silence atop Oyster dome is pure bliss and peace.
Get Ready: Oyster Dome Trail is about an hour drive north from Seattle. Take I-5, to the WA-11/Chuckanut Drive exit. You’ll turn left and drive for about ten miles through gorgeous fields and pastures and eventually into the forest. The roads are windy and thin. Parking on the side of the road is available but it’s a tight fit. Make sure you’re car isn’t hanging over the white line or you’ll be towed or worse, hit. Pups are welcome. Pro tip: pack some food or a pack-in picnic to enjoy on top of the dome. If you forget the picnic, Oyster Dome is aptly named. There are plenty of good eats nearby, oysters included.
Get Set: There will likely be a line of parked cars near the trailhead. Spots are hard to come by late in the day, but we were able to find one. The trailhead is on the east side of the highway. There’s no warm up – this trail begins immediately climbing up.
Go: The first mile is a steep ascent. Within minutes your car is a tiny speck on the roadside and yet the trees still tower above. There’s more to climb. In total you’ll climb more than 2000 feet. Within the first mile and half there is an overlook with a nice bench for a rest. This is the first panoramic view of Samish Bay and it doesn’t disappoint. The trail continues to weave back through the pines. The next three miles are filled with trees and other worldly boulders.
If you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day, the light peeks through the trees and makes for the most delightful rays to walk through.
By the time you reach mile four, your muscles will be feeling it. Don’t worry, you’re almost there. The last mile and half continues along a steep path. If you’re an experienced hiker, you know the steeper the path the better the pay-off at the end. If you’re less experienced, this hike will make you a believer. The last 400 feet are the hardest. The terrain changes a bit, to tip you off that you’re just about there. Not able to see the view until the last minute, have faith.
You’ll break away from the trees, greeted by a rocky bald overlook that will stop you in your tracks. I know it stopped me.
The tall green pines below create the most amazing texture. You can see birds swooping below. Sit on the rock and soak in the breeze sent in by the bay.
Effort: This day hike is steep. It will definitely give you that good-workout feel for the rest of the day. You might even feel a little soreness in the days to come. My hiking partner and I weren’t really prepared for the steepness of it. We just picked a hike with a distance we liked and a gorgeous view. We did not look at the elevation gain. It surprised us! Luckily, we made it just fine. There’s no water along the way so be sure to pack enough to last you. An energy bar on top of the dome was a life-saver for me.
Takeaway: I hope to hike this trail again and when I do, I think I’ll get an earlier start. We started hiking around one in the afternoon. I can imagine watching a sunrise from the top of Oyster Dome is something to behold and parking will likely be easier to find.