Kayak Baker Lake

Added by Erika Johnson

Beautiful views of Mount Baker and Shuksan. Turquoise green water and sandy beaches. Private boat-in campsites.

Just over 2 hours northeast of Seattle, Baker Lake is an often overlooked gem of the North Cascades. With 8+ miles of turquoise green water to explore, Baker Lake makes for a great day trip or overnight trip, with plenty of backcountry boat-in campsites and sandy beaches along the shore.

You can launch your boat from one of a few car campgrounds on the western shore: Kulshan, Horseshoe Cove, Panorama Point, or Swift Creek Campground. These campgrounds offer day-use ($5) boat ramps and overnight parking ($9).

The western shore has quite a few boat-in camping options; since dispersed camping is allowed in the Baker Lake area, you can set up camp on any exposed part of the shore (as long as you follow dispersed camping guidelines and leave no trace practices). For more established campgrounds, the Baker Lake Trail runs along the eastern shore with several official backcountry campgrounds: Anderson Point, Maple Grove, Silver Creek, and Noisy Creek. For the easiest paddle to one of these campgrounds, you'll want to launch your boat from Horseshoe Cove or Kulshan.

In general, it's best to start your paddle early in the morning when the water is calm. From the dock, you can paddle along the western shore or cross over to the eastern shore and pull into any beach/inlet you find for a picnic break before making your way back to the boat launch by mid to late afternoon, before the waves pick up too much. If you decide to stay overnight at your private sandy beach of choice, you can spend all day chilling and swimming by your campsite and paddle back the next morning.

Alternatively, for a bit more excitement and challenge, you can start off in the afternoon when the water currents pick up due to cooling afternoon winds. From the Panorama Point Campground boat launch, you can paddle north along the western shore for about a mile to reach a scenic inlet with a sandy beach and higher ground to set up camp. If you choose to cross the lake to the eastern shore in the late afternoon to evening, it's best to launch from Horseshoe Cove or Kulshan in order to be closer to the campgrounds on the eastern shore, unless you have more advanced paddling skills to make it from Panaroma Point (several miles with strong currents).

The various campgrounds on the western shore have day-use picnic areas as well, where you can swim, relax in the sun, or camp overnight if you're not looking for a backcountry campsite.

Here's a helpful map of the Baker Lake area.

If you're heading back to Seattle after your paddle trip, stop by Cafe Wylde and The Independent Beer Bar for food and drinks! 

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Overall rating: 

over 3 years ago

Underrated Getaway

Even on holiday weekends, there's still plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the beautiful waters and expansive views of Baker Lake. The abundance of front country campgrounds and backcountry areas offer year-round opportunities for overnight stays (even for last-minute trips!), as well as many great access points for lake activities including swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing. The waves can get a bit choppy depending on time of day, so keep an eye on the weather and know when to start kayaking closer to shore based on your equipment and experience level. Found an amazing private camping spot in the backcountry there a few weeks ago, looking forward to a return visit!

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