Now out of the trees, the view improves with nearly every step. It is something that must be experienced to understand. All I can say is that the mountain is aptly named. Anyone who chooses to climb up church mountain’s steep slopes will be rewarded with some astonishing views of the North Cascades.
When you reach the end of the Church Mountain trail, you can choose to stop and take in the exceptional views, or if you choose you can continue on a little ways and then scramble to the actual summit (6100 ft). From here you can see well into Canada and will have a 360-degree view that is hard to beat.
The trail up Church Mountain is long, steep and at times, discouraging. It starts off from the parking lot on an old road. After a quarter-mile it turns and begins the climb. Through thick tree cover the trail climbs up switchbacks and provides no views as a distraction. This first portion of the Church Mountain trail is unappealing and mind-numbing. However, for those who can push through the monotony of it will certainly reap their reward.
Once you break out of the trees around 5000ft you get your first glimpse of Church mountain’s SE face. When you get to this point, look to your left for your first glimpse of Mt. Baker. As you walk through the meadow and towards the last few switchbacks remember to keep glancing to your left for more views of Baker and Shuksan. The first meadows are spectacular and a nice short reprieve before climbing the last few switchbacks.
Church Mountain trail does tend to get crowded. But, if you are looking for a similar challenge with comparable views, then nearby excelsior peak is another excellent choice.