When I was a lot younger, and had just gotten into hiking, I would find myself looking down at front country hikes. That they were front country somehow made it less desirable. Yet….often those hikes were created to showcase the best of the area, so that almost anyone could enjoy it.
Let’s say you take two friends to visit the Mt. Baker area, and they have never hiked it before. Would you take them on a long slog, where they might see certain things, but not the whole? A few shorter hikes means they could enjoy so much more, and we could cover more land.
And maybe they will go back and explore the longer trails, now that they have been there. It’s all about introductions after all.
The whole area, once you enter Heather Meadows and above requires a National Forest parking pass. There is a machine off the road, but if you need a leg stretcher on the way there, stop at the NF visitor center in the tiny village of Glacier, Wa and pick one up in person (it’s got clean bathrooms as well). It is $5 for a day pass. And yes, they do check cars. So don’t think you will “slide by” up there. Those are tickets and not cheap!
Artist Ridge is the end of Hwy 542, which comes out of Bellingham, It ends at the parking lot on a plateau – which on a sunny morning will be packed. Even in September. Just a short curve down the road is another lot, this one is gravel. This is the view right out of the parking area.
Walk up to the road and cross it, and jump on the final stretch of the Wild Goose Trail, which takes you up to the parking area/and the pit toilets. Just beyond is the main entrance to the Artist Ridge/Huntoon Point Trails. This section is paved and graded – and the first section, to a great viewpoint of Mt. Baker, is fully paved and fully accessible. And I saw 2 folks in wheelchairs out on it. It really felt so awesome to see everyone able to enjoy the mountains.
The views of Baker are great the whole way, but even at the start are beautiful.
The smooth trail turns to dirt trail and starts heading up. It’s never bad, but you definitely will get a light workout. Shuksan starts peaking over.
As you gain elevation, Baker becomes more visible.
The first tarn. By mid September it is often barely there. Then you’ll have a year or two, where the snow hasn’t melted out (I have seen that) and this set of trails is barely navigable.
There is something about standing on a ridge, in subalpine. Listening to the wind.
The trail winds along, on both sides of the ridge.
A native pollinator bee over a dying back Alpine Aster.
In one section I saw mountain Huckleberry growing well, with a few last of the moment berries, very ripe. The ladies had not had them before. They range from a deep purple to a black. They are shiny and seedy.
There is a big difference between them and the low growing mountain blueberry – those are dusky blue and smaller. Less seedy. The low growing blueberry bushes have already started turning red and burgundy. The first freeze has occurred, and fall is nearly here.
Another sign of fall coming is nature’s burger bun (a joke). Amanita muscaria, the classic toadstool, was under the trees, popping out in color.
Mountain Ash, with berries.
2 ancients snags.
Alpine Aster, with a native bee on it.
Looking across to Shuksan, as the trail continues up.
The big tarn as you crest the top of the section. It’s a great place to just sit and enjoy the views.
The wind picked up. It was nice as it was hitting 70 or so in the sun (it only heats up for a few hours this time of year).
We left the tarn due to a super annoying lady who decided running her drone was a fabulous idea. A rock to it would have been nice.
The price you pay to be in a pretty place I suppose. She stopped eventually. Have to wonder if someone yelled at her.
We walked to the end of the trail, overlooking Shuksan. To the right of my shoulder, if you go up a bit more is another tarn. You can see all the way to Baker Lake, far away, down Swift Creek Valley.
I love hanging valleys, looking down into them.
The hike out we took slowly, just enjoying the walk – and the views.
It’s not a long hike, nor a strenuous one, but it’s a hike that leaves you feeling positive inside.
If you want to go, don’t wait. Within a couple weeks the snow will be starting. It will be cold up there. And soon the road will be closed at the Heather Meadow gates. The last wildflowers are out. And no flies or mosquitoes.
Weekdays are a far better choice, but if you go on the weekend, go early for less people.