Hiking · Local Adventures

Local Adventures: Day Tripping At Mount Baker

It’s a long drive to hike around Mount Baker, from the Heather Meadows side, via Hwy 542, from where ever you are. We took I-5 to Bellingham, then onto Hwy 542, to the end of the road, which this year is Heather Meadows. The road past it is gated, and was not cleared of snow to Artist Point.

That is the route most take for the drive, but if you are coming up from the south, I highly recommend taking Hwy 20 to Hwy 9, which dumps you onto Hwy 542. It might not save much time, but it is a relaxing drive, through farm land, instead of a busy interstate road. We took Hwy 9 back, where it turns onto Hwy 20 in Sedro Wooley. That meant it was a straight shot back to Whidbey Island on Hwy 20 for us.

We left very early to avoid crowds (5 am wake up). We stopped in Glacier to stretch our legs at the ranger station outside of town. The bathrooms are open (and clean as usual), but nothing else is open. You can buy a NW Forest Pass for the day at the machine outside, but card only this year.

The ranger station has a matching CCC statue to the one at Bowman Bay, on Fidalgo Island now. Good history lesson for the boys there.

I have photos of their brother in front of this 730 year old Douglas Fir somewhere, from when he was little.

We stopped at Picture Lake and got out to stretch. It’s an easy loop (fully paved) that most anyone can do. The thing about this easy hike is the views. Of Shuksan. It’s a true delight to wander, no matter who you are. Park benches and overlooks abound.

The boys leading.

A long time ago I have a photo of my Mom, my oldest son as a toddler and I here. Nothing ages you faster than looking back into time.

Purple Aster.

Shuksan was feeling moody. It was mid 60’s and breezy, which makes for a near perfect hiking weather.

We drove up to Heather Meadows, to the end of the road. All the parking lots are open, though not obvious. The picnic area is open. As is the privy, in the farthest in lot. The visitor center is closed. I took the boys down the Fire and Ice trail, which sets off to the left of the visitor center area. The trail is paved to the end, which is a panoramic view of Upper Bagley Lake.

But don’t turn around, take the hiking path downhill from here.

The backside is a pleasant hike, following babbling streamlets of water, from the last bits of snow.

There is a pretty tarn at the top of the low ridge to enjoy.

The Heather was in bloom, both the white and the pink.

The trail winds back around and connects with the main trail and pops back out at the visitor center.

To get down to Bagley Lakes, look for the opening in the wall by the visitor center, and look for the stone stairs going down the rock face. While it should be obvious, not everyone sees it. The steps are steep so take your time but it’s a quick section. Then pop onto the trail and follow the signs.

Lower Bagley Lake.

As the trail winds down pass another tarn with trails to it, if one wants to visit.

At the bottom is the stone bridge over the outlet from Upper Bagley Lake. Cross over it for views.

The trail on the other side goes both ways. To the left is the trail to Chain Lakes that is visible when you are looking down at Upper Bagley Lakes.

We headed downhill on the trail along the creek.

The creek splashes down a narrow notch.

The breeze flows up the lake.

In the middle of the creek there was an island that was covered in wild flowers. So very, very pretty.

Looking up at Table Mountain in the middle.

The trail along Bagley Lakes is nearly always a pleasant ramble.

The trail meanders until it reaches Lower Bagley Lake. Turn around here and retrace your steps, or cross the dam at the end (a left) and take the upper trail back to Upper Bagley, for a loop.

Parking at Heather Meadows and the lower “overflow” parking lot at the ski resort both require a NW Forest Pass. There is a machine as well as you enter the ski area to buy a day pass for $5, card only. Dogs on leash. This is a heavily used area on weekends in summer, if you are concerned with passing others, carry a face mask. Going midweek and early ensures a lot less humans on most days.


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