This is a peaceful loop that uses many of the trails at Lookout Mountain Preserve. In 4.0 miles, hikers will climb to the high-point for a small view from the Lake Whatcom View Trail before working back around through a fern and moss laden forest that envelops visitors in nature. Expect some flat sections and frequently climbs.
Locate the bottom of the Rufus Creek Trail (Under Construction)
on the east side of the parking area. The grade starts out mildly but soon steepens once hikers reach the first switchback. The forest in this lower section is dark and foreboding as it parallels the nearby Lake Lousie Road.
Low seasonal pools border the trail as it works past the base of a short ridge. Ahead, a sweeping switchback turns up the slope to climb through a grove of alders that let in the light. The remainder of the trail travels over a gravel reinforced tread with alders on either side.
Cross over the access road to continue west past the Baneberry Trail
. Keep right (as mapped) to head up a generously wide singletrack that meanders over a bridge and uphill. The forest is open and is composed mostly of deciduous trees. Occasional drainage work is easily navigated and keeps the mud and puddles at bay.
At the next "Y" keep left onto the pedestrian-only Leila June Trail
. Look for a towering moss-covered tree on the left before a gradual descent. This quiet sentinel is followed by a tree-lined corridor that works down to a fern-covered slope. Here the trail juts upwards for a punchy climb that will require careful footwork if the ground is covered in wet leaves. The climbing continues with short sections of level ground interspersed. Hikers will have to work harder as the cadence of switchback and climb, switchback and climb continues for sometime. It's not over-taxing, but it will get your heart rate up.
Eventually, the trail levels off at a small clearing where it intersects the Baneberry Trail
. Turn right as the potentially muddier singletrack casually works around the edge of the slope. The comfortably wide trail soon begins to rise and hikers will enjoy a thickening undergrowth of ferns as they continue.
About halfway up, a shrouded view of Lake Whatcom pops up through the trees before the trail follows a small ridgeline along the edge of the slope. Things get tighter as the narrow path picks through the trees and works up a series of switchbacks. At the top, the trail halts at a small split-log bench that sits in front of a small view of Lake Whatcom and Stewart Mountain. This loop turns around after you've checked out the view or snapped some shots.
Head back down the tight corners before Baneberry Trail
widens into a gravelly road. This section is less entertaining, but there are still a number of views along the way. There are also some more aggressive drainage ditches employed here and parts can be quite slick when covered in wet leaves.
Back at the access road, hikers can turn left (as mapped) for a direct exit back to the parking area. Or that can head right to extend the hike by adding on the Waterfall Loop Trail
. Or, option number three is to go straight and hike down the bottom of the Rufus Creek Trail.
This hike is surrounded by a vibrant forest that alternates between alders, cedars, and occasional other trees. Plenty of moss and ferns create a green backdrop throughout the year.
These trails were created in the past 10 years or so, and are just the beginning of the trail system. More trails should expand the network in the coming years.