Oyster Dome Loop Hike near Bellingham

A view from a high place over water and distance islands on a sunny day
View from the top of Oyster Dome of the San Juan Islands

Oyster Dome is a fantastic view hike near Bellingham through a peaceful forest to a spectacular view of the San Juan Islands. It’s not an easy hike, but it’s not terribly difficult either, with about 1000 feet of elevation gain in about 5 miles round trip. The route I’ll describe here is a bit longer at 6 miles to do the loop. I like loops, which is why I like to do it this way. There are, however, three ways to do it! You can do the loop, or you can do either half of the loop to Oyster Dome (the Samish Bay trail is the shortest one and if you wanted to do an out and back that would be the way to go, although the other way as described in the loop is less crowded).

Is the Oyster Dome Loop Hike right for me?

If you like loops, awesome views, walking through the forest and want some climbing without too much climbing, this hike is for you! It’s near Bellingham, so you can enjoy some time there too! This does involve a few miles of driving on a gravel road, so if you’re not comfortable with that you might want to choose a different hike. This is a great early season hike since it’s a big view but snow free!

When is a good time for the Oyster Dome loop hike?

You want to do this hike on a day that’s clear when you can see the view! Otherwise, this is a good year round hike, as it generally stays snow free all year, or almost all year.

Where is Oyster Dome?

Oyster Dome is near Bellingham, north of Seattle. I’ll be describing the drive and the hike starting at the Samish Bay Overlook trailhead. There is another trailhead for this hike on Chuckanut drive, but I think this one is much better! Getting to the trailhead takes about two hours from Seattle if there’s not any traffic (don’t attempt this on a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon!). Start heading north on I-5, taking Exit 240 signed Alger. Turn left from the off ramp and then left again on Barrell Springs Road. Follow this to Blanchard Hill road and turn right. Follow this road till it dead ends in the parking lot, after turning to gravel (you will also pass, and ignore, a couple other trailheads along the way). You’ll need a Discover Pass to park here. Right in the parking lot there are already some great views (which you won’t see along the way in the forest until you get to the top) as well as the chance to see paragliders taking off!

Trail Description

To do the loop hike, start off to the left of the restrooms by the horse corral on the Larry Reid Trail. it’s a good idea to have a map for this trail so that you know which trail you want at the different intersections. If you don’t have a map, don’t forget to take a picture of the one at the trailhead! I refered to the map multiple times.

A picture of a trailhead map of the Oyster Dome trail loop
I was very grateful to have this map to make sure I went the right way at each junction!

You will cross the road on this trail, and later a clearcut, and then you’ll be back in the forest. It’s a shady forest trail and after about a mile, the trail splits. Take the left split on the Max’s shortcut trail. You’ll continue to climb steadily. After about a mile and a half (2.5 miles from the trailhead), you’ll reach another junction. Here you will go left towards Oyster Dome (signs for Oyster Dome and the Samish Overlook). You’ll soon reach another well signed junction where you turn right to climb steeply a short distance to the “dome” which is a big rock with an AMAZING view! Make sure to spend some time here with your lunch and/or snacks and soak up the view. There is even shade from the surrounding trees! Be extremely careful at the edge of Oyster Dome, especially with children and pets as it is a very, very long way to fall. Don’t get close to the edge!

When you’re ready to head back down, return down the spur trail, but to do the loop, go right this time (following signs to the Samish Overlook on the Samish Bay trail). This is a steep, switchback downhill through the forest. Just over a mile from that junction, there’s another branch and you will go left to complete the short distance back to the parking lot!

Thick, tall, green trails line both sides of a shady trail
Most of the hike is through shady, green second growth forest

If you don’t want to do the loop, you can follow the signs to Oyster Dome from the parking lot and go up the way I described to go down here. This would only be about 5 miles and is a bit steeper. You could also return the slightly longer (and slightly less steep way).

Distant islands with two hikers in the foreground. Text reads: 3 ways to hike oyster dome, Bellingham WA
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Jennie Flaming
Jennie Thwing Flaming, Chief Adventure Officer: Jennie's life has been a continual quest for adventure (of the non-adrenalin inducing kind) from birth till now. Professionally, she pursues adventures in teaching, counseling and working to obliterate institutional racism for students in our region's public schools and also works as a tour and hiking guide. Previous professional adventures include working in schools in Seattle and Alaska, leading tours and managing tour guides and presenting traveling science shows and lessons with Pacific Science Center. She believes in sharing her beloved Pacific Northwest home with visitors. She likes to be outdoors and spend time with the people she loves. Jennie is born and raised in Seattle and has also lived in Alaska and the Netherlands.