29 Jun Artist Point
I’ve never met a mountain vista I didn’t love but if asked which is my favorite, Artist Point comes readily to mind. Since it’s closed for much of the year because of the epic snowfall it receives annually, the anticipation for its reopening is something that begins building with the first hints of spring, usually in June or July depending on the winter. This year the road opened June 23rd, 2016.
At the end of Highway SE 542, also called the Mount Baker Highway, 57.24 miles from Bellingham, Artist Point rises up to an elevation of 5,210 feet. The road ends in a large parking area surrounded by spectacular peaks that resemble a vast outdoor cathedral. From here you can walk on several easy trails for different angles on the views and find a rocky outcropping for the picnic I hope you brought along.
A great part of the excitement of this trip is the road that snakes its way majestically up switchback after switchback as you ascend to the summit. The climb by car is dramatic as you pass through the heavily forested North Fork and the valley of the Nooksack River, passing the Mount Baker Ski Area and the popular hiking destination, Heather Meadows, and finally, a couple of miles beyond, rounding a bend and arriving at the top of the world.
The surrounding views overload the visual senses in every direction of the compass with vast stretches of wilderness laid out beneath you and mountain views that stretch off into Canada and the rest of the North Cascade Range, including 10,781 foot Mount Baker and 9,134 foot Mount Shuskan. You also get panorama of American Border Peak, Mount Larrabee, Goat Mountain and more mountains to the north, and even a peek at Mount Stuart to the south. This is as close as you can get to Mount Baker via automobile and it’s magnificent to behold. There are ten main glaciers on the mountain and in June it was still heavily snow packed. The Artist Point area itself was still under a deep layer of snow cover keeping most people near the parking lot. We ventured away from most of the sightseers for a quiet lunch to enjoy a piece of this mountain sanctuary all to ourselves.
This is a place I will always return to. It’s a place I always bring family and friends who venture to this part of the Northwest. It leaves an indelible memory inevitably with everyone who comes here. It’s the kind of place and of a scale that can only exist in Nature and is a humble reminder of the extraordinary world that exists beyond the realm of what we ourselves have created.