Riding Mount Baker Highway to Artist Point
Mount Baker Highway is a National Forest Scenic Byway that takes you from I-5 at Bellingham to the top of Mount Baker. A total length of 60 miles, things only start to get good at Glacier, WA, which is about 35 miles into the journey from I-5.
Also known as State Route 542, the road is not a mountain pass. It’s a dead end road that terminates at Mount Baker Ski Area.
It’s not everyday I get to run up onto a Porsche 911 Gt3 RS and pressure it out of my way.
The fun really begins once we gain some elevation and leave the ski cabins behind. Here the guardrails disappear and the views open up to show the Cascade Range.
Just past the ski area is the road to Artist Point.
The road to Artist Point typically opens in July and remains open until the first substantial snowfall of the year, which usually comes in late September or early October. From here, the final 2.7 miles of the road is mostly switchback — and incredible views.
Artist Point is a pretty popular spot for summer hiking and winter snowshoeing. The ride to the top was traffic-free, but as the panorama photo shows, a lot of people came up on this lovely day to explore nature.
Mount Shuksan (9,131') is the star of the eastern view, and Mount Baker (10,781') is the star of the western view. Let’s start with Shuksan.
Mount Baker’s peak was shrouded in clouds during our visit, unfortunately, but it makes for a more interesting sky.
Past Mount Baker there are views down the valley to Baker Lake and Baker River. Out that-a-way is also North Cascades Highway, another great motorcycle road.
A few more photos of the road on the way back down…
And a final parting shot at the appropriately named “Picture Lake” just before leaving the ski area.
IF you hope to ride the road, you’ll need to do it in July — September. Depending on the snow level, it may not open all the way to the top until later. The road to Artist Point closes at the first significant snowfall.
If you’re headed back to I-5, I suggest dinner in Bellingham. Try Boomer’s for drive-in style fare, or go downtown to one of the hip gastropubs or breweries if you’re looking for something more refined. Also, don’t miss riding Chuckanut Drive, which is where we headed next.