Dog Friendly Hike: Oyster Dome

P1040056EFor our first hike of the year, that counts toward our 250 miles, we hiked up Oyster Dome. This dog friendly hike is in the town of Bellingham, about 1.5 hours north of Seattle. It may be “in” a town but it’s certainly not an urban hike. It’s a strenuous wilderness hiking experience.

The trail climbs Blanchard Mountain, which is part of the Chuckanut Mountains. The Chuckanut Mountains look more like hills but are part of the Cascade Range. They are the only place where the Cascades come west down to meet the sea.

I hadn’t hiked up Oyster Dome since I was in college and even then I only did it once (so I forgot what the trail was actually like). I decided to take Chester and Gretel up there after our monthly Adventureweiner Club walk. The air temperature was very cold and crisp but it was sunny. I knew the views of the San Juan Islands would be amazing that day.

We started at the Samish Overlook to cut 1,000 feet of elevation gain from the hike. I looked at the map and saw no switchbacks on the upper portion of the trail so I thought “how hard could it be.”


Famous last words! I remembered that the thing about trails that head up a mountain (although, in my defense, I though the trail traversed the side of the mountain) with no switchbacks is that it goes straight up. I haven’t hiked a trail that steep in a long time.


Of course I got all of the usual comments: Are those little guys hiking all of the way to the top?; I am amazed they can make it on those short little legs; they must be so tired.” As usual, I was the one holding THEM back. I did have to carry Chester over some of the wider stream crossings and the big, deep muddy sections. Gretel just plowed right through them of course.

We saw about 25 dogs on the trail. Only 4 of them were on a leash! We were in a different county so I thought perhaps leashes weren’t required there. When I got back to the trailhead I checked the information board and looky what I found.


The only thing that kept me from being totally annoyed is that half of the people leashed their dogs when they saw us. They were disobeying the leash laws but at least they were courteous to others. The other dogs were pretty well behaved so it wasn’t a huge issue. I just stepped off the trail with Chester and Gretel, blocked them with my body, and kept repeating the mantra “leave it, leave it, leave it”.

Chester and Gretel did ok with the off leash dogs for the most part. There were two cases where the dogs circled back around and harassed them. All bets were off then and they caused quite a scene. I don’t look at it as their fault exactly but I do feel embarrassed when we are in the middle of the woods and people can hear my dogs for a mile in every direction. It kind of ruins the peaceful experience.

On the way up there are several large boulders. These boulders are glacial erratics.


These rocks differ from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. The rocks were carried there by glaciers that moved over great distances and deposited when the ice started to melt. My geology is a little rusty but I believe these were left behind by the Cordilleran ice sheet.

We reached the top of Oyster Dome in about an hour and a half. Once we stopped, I remembered how cold it actually was. Parts of the rock were covered with a thinn film of ice. I was VERY careful because the rock face is vertical and if you slipped you would fall a really long way. In that respect, this trail is a challenge for those that are afraid of heights.

The sky was mostly clear and the views were amazing.


Some people stayed up there for sunset. I assumed they brought the right lighting so they could hike down the treacherous trail in the dark. We returned to the overlook just in time for sunset.


Even if you only drive to the overlook, the views are spectacular (not very different from what you get at the top). You can even see Mount Rainier to the south on a clear day. The hard work it takes, and birds-eye view, make the view at the top more rewarding though.


Trail Stats:

Trail Name: Oyster Dome (from Samish Overlook)
Distance: 4.5 miles RT (2 miles off the total round trip starting at the overlook)
Elevation Gain: aapproximately 900 feet (starting at the overlook)
Highest Point: 2025 feet
Permits and Passes: Discover Pass required to park at the trailhead

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. Wow those are some gorgeous photos.

    I get annoyed with people and their off-leash dogs at times. Generally I will just give a shout about leashing up their dog but if they are oblivious I will either remove my dog or drop the leash. If I drop that leash, they are getting what they get, it’s not fair to my dog to feel trapped or threatened by an uncontrolled approaching dog.

    1. Yeah….I am not brave enough to just drop Chester and Gretel’s leash. They WILL go after the off-leash dog and since they are small, they could get injured easy. I agree it is not fair to the leashed dog though.

  2. What a gorgeous setting. It is annoying when people don’t obey leash laws but I’m glad you didn’t let it spoil your enjoyment. You are inspiring us to get out into nature in the colder weather.

    1. I am glad to hear we are inspiring at least one person. It’s not as cold here as other parts of the country but the grey, wet weather is WAY unmotivating. I invested in some extra winter clothes for my and the dogs this year to make getting outdoors more comfortable for us. It is helping.

  3. Beautiful photos! The dogs look so happy to be out with you. I agree; I’m similarly annoyed when people don’t follow leash laws, particularly because one of our dogs is reactive.

    1. Yes, that is my issue too – reactivity. I have no doubt that some people with off leash dogs think that I am the one in the wrong for bringing reactive dogs on the trail. However, I’ve gotten to where I can control it pretty good…unless an off-leash dog runs right up to us. It makes it extra frustrating because it makes my dogs look bad when it would have not been an issue of their dog was leashed like the law requires. Most people don’t think past themselves and their own dog.

  4. What a lovely hike!

    I don’t hike much anymore, because we live somewhere completely and totally flat. The walking is so much easier, but it takes away a lot of the thrill. Why drive an hour out of town for (yet another) flat walk? Locals tell me that the answer is rare birds and plants, but those are kind of hard to see in detail with a dog.

    If off leash dogs were harassing Silas, *I* would be the one making the scene.

    1. I agree. Birds and plants don’t really tickle my fancy. To me, hiking is about enjoying the beauty AND working hard. I would hike as much if I lived somewhere flat either.

  5. What a great place to hike, but it does sound challenging. Although, that is what makes a hike worthwhile, isn’t it? I also use “leave it” a lot when walking! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I have severe hiking envy! Those trails sound awesome. And I would love to see that view for myself!

    And oh crap! I just realized I missed the blog chat! Gah! I got a phone call from my sister about some surgery she’s having! *hangs head* It was even on my calendar!

    1. That’s ok about the chat. Several people that hoped to make it couldn’t but we still had a decent turnout for our first one. The next one is going to be on 2/19 at 5 pm. I haven’t decided on the topic yet but it will probably be off-leash dogs or pet first aid.

      This hike is unique because it is one of the few in the state where you can see the sunset over the water like that.

  7. wow!!! That looks like a great place to go hiking!!!! Aside from the annoyance of the leash law you must have had a ton of fun!!
    ((husky hugz))
    “love is being owned by a husky”

  8. We have to admit that is a pretty cool hike but we have concerns, being city folk and all. Aren’t you afraid by yourself? Don’t you worry about the dogs getting hurt? I am surprised also about dogs being off leash as it would be too easy for them to get lost or hurt. Love Dolly

    1. By myself?? Ha. I probably saw 50 other people on the trail. Do you mean hiking as a one woman and 2 dogs party? Nah…I’ve spent most of my life doing adventures on my own because I don’t wait until I have someone to go with. If both dogs got hurt and I had to carry them out, it would be a challenge. If it was one dog, they weigh 10 lbs and can easily be shuttled out in a little, extra backpack/sling that I carry. If shit hit the fan, I have no doubt that some kind stranger would help us out.

  9. Stunning pictures of the view. Good job keeping the doggies on leashes. Off leash dogs scare me. Mom also says the word, “Leave it,” and let’s me stare at a training treat till the intruder is gone.

    Love and licks,

    1. I have never been one to afraid of dogs but when off-leash dogs see my dogs (that are sometimes making a fuss) they often approach with a determination and/or aggression than they would if it was just me. I am never afraid for myself but sometimes get a little shaken about Chester and Gretel.

  10. That look on Gretel’s face in that second photo is so adorable! Glad you all had a nice hike. I’m pretty sure my dogs could outdo me as well. I have to admit that I used to let my dogs off leash in areas they were supposed to be on leash.

    1. She as extra flappy lips so it gives her a whole different expression. Her look and eyes have these different expressions too. I love Chester but he pretty much has one, signature look 🙂

      If the rules are to leash your dog but NO ONE is around, I don’t have any problem with it. I really don’t even have a problem with it if you are, say, in a big field with another dog and they are off-leash and keep to themselves. It definitely causes issues though when the dogs are forced into a tight space – like passing on a 3 foot wide trail. There is just no reason for it in my eyes.

  11. Hi Jessica, I love your blog! I just found it yesterday. I have recently adopted a 3 year old rescue miniature doxie and she loves coming with me when I hike in the woods. I get many of the same comments you mentioned! Oh well…if she ever does seem tired or worn out, I can just pick her up and carry her. She only weighs 8 lbs. 😉

    I love Chester and Gretel’s coats! Can I ask where you bought them? Winter is approaching and I know my little one will need a coat to hike with me in the cold weather.

    1. Hi Michele. Glad you found my blog and thanks for reading! An congrats on your new Doxie.

      The coats in this post are not our favorite but they are the warmest, water resistant ones that we have (that don’t chafe when Chester and Gretel hike). They are made by RC pets. They aren’t made for Dachshunds and, like most mass produced dog jackets, only cover about 3/4 of their back. It was particularly cold last winter for a few weeks and these sure kept them warm though. Our favorite jackets are made by The Cozy Hound. They are affordable custom made fleeced jackets (so they cover the whole back). While they are not water resistant, they are made of double fleece so the water doesn’t always soak through. Even if it does, they still stay toasty warm and the fleece stays soft so there is no chafing. You can read more about those jackets here:

      Happy hiking and hope to hear from you again.

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