I've done this hike three times, once starting at Strawberry Flats, and twice starting at Spruce Bay. From Strawberry Flats the climb is more gradual, but some of the harder parts of the trail are at the end. Personally, I prefer to start at Spruce Bay. The ascent is very, very strenuous, but then the rest of the trail is very pleasant.
From Spruce Bay the trail follows Lightning Lake before reaching a junction. One path will continue down the lake, and the other climbs up the Skyline Ridge. The switchbacks are very strenuous, but they are in the shade (some of the climbs later on are not). After a little while the trail comes out of the woods to an open area, offering a teaser of some of the views to come.
From here one of the hardest climbs starts. The trail goes through a large burned area from a fire that happened many years ago. I've gotten lucky many times here and found lots of wild strawberries.
|Flash Lake from the burned area|
|Gibson Pass Ski Hill|
After the worst climbs are over, the trail goes through a nice little meadow. In the peak season it is very scenic, though the bees can be a bit of a nuisance.
After the meadow the trail reaches the Skyline 1/Skyline 2 junction. The Skyline 2 trail continues to Mowich Wilderness Campsite, and is better suited as an overnight trip. This is a really nice place to eat lunch, offering some great views.
The trail descends to Strawberry Flats from the junction. While there aren't the same amazing views there were before, I do always enjoy the wildflowers in the meadows in this area.
The Skyline Trail isn't necessarily a highly strenuous trail, but parts of it are quite physically taxing. It is one of the nicest trails I've done though, and I always enjoy returning to it.
You can read more about the hike here.
|The Skyline Ridge|