The end of Mount Baker Highway (542)
If you have only one day to spend in the North Cascades, Heather Meadows is your best choice. Year-round accessibility combined with a stunning alpine setting make this location truly unique. While winter skiers and snowboarders can choose between the Mount Baker Ski Area and backcountry touring, it is really the summertime when the uniqueness of this area becomes so evident. Snowfall that can reach world record depths allows traditional winter snow sports to continue through the summer. It is not uncommon to see hikers, skiers, photographers, sightseers, and picnickers all using the same trailhead.
In years when the winter snowfalls have not been too dramatic, the short road to Artist Point is open. From your car you can step out and enjoy the perspective from a setting that is over 5,000 feet above sea level. Trails with names like "Fire and Ice" and "Ptarmigan Ridge" hint at what they have to offer. Travel through flowered meadows, past abandoned gold mines, up ridges and over mountains that are made of everything from volcanic debris to ancient sea floor. The hiking varies from interpretive nature walks to the dizzying Table Mountain trail. The image of Mt. Shuksan reflected in the appropriately named Picture Lake is one of the most photographed mountain views in the world. When you see the striking contrast of black rock, white snow, and vivid icy blue glacier you’ll understand why.
This is also the location for the beginning of the now world famous Ski to Sea Race in May. Witness the mass start of the cross-country ski segment followed by the climb and descent of the alpine skiers, and the handoff to the runners who continue down the mountain. You’ll have to get up early though, before the road closes on the morning of the race.
For parking at any time other than winter, a day or annual parking (trailhead) pass is currently required. These can be purchased from local stores or the Glacier Ranger Station during summer months. Whatever your interest and energy level you’ll find a good day in the mountains with a visit to Heather Meadows.
Take State Highway 542 (Sunset Drive in Bellingham) to road’s end at upper Mount Baker Ski Lodge.
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