Follow a well-worn and rocky trail through forest, meadow and talus to a beautiful lake perched above a deep glacial valley. But the lake is not the biggest draw to this trail, that credit would go to the mighty Mt Shuksan and the lower Curtis Glacier in North Cascades National Park that will capture your attention and may even draw you in for a closer view. Make a weekend of it and enjoy all the adventure that this area has to offer.
The trail begins along the Mt Baker highway from the trailhead on the left just before Artist Point. There is limited parking at the trailhead, so arrive early. The four mile long trail immediately drops into an alpine forest before flattening in a boggy meadow. Cross Swift Creek here and admire the wildflowers. Mt Baker makes some sneaky appearances through the trees, but don’t worry, the lovely white stratovolcano will soon dominate your views.
The trail begins to climb steadily through talus slopes sprinkled with wildflowers toward a saddle. This part of the trail can be dangerous in the early season when snow is present. Continue up until cresting at a saddle. Stop to catch your breath while taking in the views of Mt Shuksan which finally makes an appearance. The jagged peak, one of the most beautiful in the North Cascades, towers above the crackling ice of the Lower Curtis glacier.
You will have to tear your eyes away from Mt Shuksan to notice the humble lake nestled below. It’s edges appear to plunge into the valley below like an infinity pool. There are some campsites around the lake and up above a rocky slope. We set up camp right on some flat rocks on the far shore of the lake. The views from the tent door were spectacular and we had a front row view of the sunset’s alpenglow. Once and a while we heard the crack of the glacier and tumbling of ice and rocks.
After establishing camp, we decided to check out the Lower Curtis Glacier. We headed back toward the saddle and found the trail heading along the slopes toward Mt Shuksan. This rough climbers’ path is cut out of a steep slope and should only be traveled when there is no snow lingering. We didn’t get far before our fingers were blue from all the blueberries we were picking. We had our fill like gluttonous bears and then continued on our way.
The incredible size of the glacier begins to reveal itself as you get closer and closer. The edges of the dark crevasses become sharper with alternating thin stripes of ice blue and brown lining the inside of them. We chatted with some climbers making their way up the seemingly impossible-to-climb mountain and wished them luck. On our way back to the lake I thought about how lucky we were to get an up close view of this beautiful and sadly, shrinking, glacier.
The journey to Lake Ann is one filled with amazing scenery and views and the short trek to the glacier makes this hike even more spectacular. It’s the cherry (or should I say blueberry) on top of an already incredible hike and the perfect excuse to make this trip an overnight one. A visit in fall makes it even better with the promise of blazing foliage and delicious berries.