Mount Baker Highway is a National Forest Scenic Byway that takes you from I-5 at Bellingham to the top of Mount Baker.
Also known as State Route 542, Mount Baker Highway is not a mountain pass, as you might think. It’s a 60-mile dead end road that terminates at Mount Baker Ski Area and continues to Artist Point. At over 5,000 ft above sea level, Artist Point is one of the highest paved roads in Washington State.
Our story starts in the dense forests of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest just outside of Glacier, WA.
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 Mount Baker highway on the way back down…
And a final parting shot at the appropriately named “Picture Lake” just before leaving the ski area.
Ride Mount Baker Highway
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.
Very nice writeup, thank you!
Hi Jon. In looking ahead to the weekend, I found your post on Mt. Baker, one of my local favorites. We’ve shared several other locations, but not at the same time. This October we’ll be riding Baja again: on road, two paved lanes, 80kph. The distance from the Canadian Border to Mexico (2000km) is about the same as the length of Baja. This is an open invitation – come for as much or little as you like – and please share the invitation with other riders. Planning for short days, time to enjoy the villages on the way. We meet in San Ysidro Ca on Sunday October 14. If you have the time, please ask to join the Facebook Group Baja October 2018. Hoping to see you on the road, Douglas McLaughlin.
Sounds like a blast! Thanks for reading and commenting Douglas. Maybe I’ll see you on the road sometime!