The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington extends more than 140 miles (230 km) along the western slopes of the Cascade Range from the Canadian border to the northern boundary of Mount Rainier National Park. Forest headquarters are located in the city of Everett.
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest covers (in descending order of forestland area) portions of Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit, King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kittitas counties. It has a total area of 1,724,229 acres. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest consists of four Ranger Districts. The following are listed geographically from North to South: the Mt. Baker District has two ranger stations located in Glacier and Sedro-Woolley; the Darrington Ranger District has two ranger stations located in Darrington and Verlot; the Skykomish Ranger District has one ranger station located in Skykomish; and the Snoqualmie Ranger District has two ranger stations located in North Bend and Enumclaw.
Together with the other central Puget Sound counties, 62% (3.63 million people) of the State's population lives within a 70-mile (110 km) drive of the Forests. Another 1.5 million in the Vancouver, British Columbia metro area are also within easy reach of the northern part of the Forests. The large population factor, coupled with easy road access, makes the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest the second most visited National Forest in the country.
The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest contains many scenic and historical points of interest. Mountain tops gradually rise from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,800 m) on the south end of the forest to 7,000 to 8,000 feet (2,400 m) in the north. Two tall volcanoes, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak, tower thousands of feet above the adjacent ridges.
The Forest is home to more glaciers and snow fields than any other National Forest outside Alaska. As of 1971, the largest glaciers (with surface areas greater than 2.5 km2) are:
- White Chuck
The number of glaciers in the forest has decreased from 295 in 1971 to less than 287 in 1998. This is a part of the global phenomenon of glacier retreat. Forest glaciers have lost between 20 and 40% of their volume between 1984 and 2006. This is due to continued warm conditions and negative mass balance. White Chuck Glacier (Glacier Peak) is no longer on the list of large glaciers, above. It shrank from 3.1 km2 in 1958 to 0.9 km2 in 2002.
With the shrinking of the glaciers, summer glacial runoff has been reduced by 65 to 80%. This reduces stream and river flow and sediment and increases their temperature. Salmon and many other species are adversely affected by such changes.
The north and east portions of the Forest are exceptionally rugged and scenic. In 1968 part of the Forest was transferred to the National Park Service as the North Cascades National Park
. A 1993 Forest Service study estimated that the extent of old growth in the Forest was 643,500 acres (260,400 ha). In addition, Congressional action since 1964 has established the following wilderness areas:
These pristine areas provide clean water, solitude, and permanent protection to old-growth forests across 42% of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Congress also established the Skagit Wild and Scenic River system in 1978. Its 125 miles (201 km) of river on the Skagit, Cascade, Sauk, and Suiattle Rivers provide important wildlife habitat and recreation. The Skagit River System is home to one of the largest winter populations of Bald Eagles in the United States
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest encompasses much of the North Cascades
Ecoregion, a Level III North American Ecoregion. It includes the following level IV ecoregions:
- Western Hemlock Ecoregion
- Silver Fir Ecoregion
- Subalpine Mountain Hemlock Ecoregion
- Alpine Ecoregion