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Artist Point Snowshoe

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
View map below

Length

4.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1000 ft.
Highest Point: 5100 ft.

Rating

4.50 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
Vehicle Access Limited: As of 10/07/21 Highway 542 is closed to cars for the winter season at the Bagley Lakes Trailhead milepost 54.7.
 
 

Artist Point is the top competitor for best viewpoint in the state. The beautifully shaped Mount Shuksan is the star of the area, with a gorgeous summit pyramid and several impressive glaciers. Mount Baker dominates the skyline in the southwest. Artist Point also is a great viewpoint for the Cascades, with sweeping views of the valley of Baker Lake and in the far distance peaks like Whitehorse Mountain, Three Fingers, Sloan Peak and White Chuck Mountain. Immediately from the trailhead beautiful peaks in the north are visible, such as American Border Peak, Mount Larrabee, and Goat Mountain.

Artist Point is an excellent winter destination. The area typically gets large amounts of snow: it even holds the world record amount of snowfall within a season (95 feet). Due to its northern location and a trailhead at 4200 feet, good snow coverage is virtually guaranteed from November to June. In average years, cars can drive all the way to the Artist Point parking area from July until late September, but the remainder of the year the Mount Baker Highway is only plowed to the ski area at Heather Meadows (Picture Lake). In extreme years like 1999, the last section to Artist Point might not open at all. The ski area is small and isolated enough that it does not disturb the peace and quiet at Artist Point, and helps with winter access to this beautiful place.

Artist Point is a 4-mile roundtrip snowshoe with about 1000 feet of elevation gain. It is a popular destination, so there is almost always a clearly visible track to follow. Artist Point should be doable for most beginning snowshoers, but there are a couple of steeper (though not exposed) sections that can be challenging depending on the snow conditions. If you venture out with fog or snow in the forecast, then be cautious that route finding skills are critical in this open terrain.

The route to Artist Point does go through avalanche terrain, so this trip is not without danger. Depending on the specific risks, it is best to avoid the area when avalanche risk is considerable. Please carefully consider the NWAC avalanche forecast before venturing out (updated every night at 6pm). By carefully picking your route the steepest terrain and the more dangerous avalanche slopes can be avoided, but this requires experience with route finding and snow conditions.

The trailhead to Artist Point is at the last parking area on the Mount Baker Highway. No permits nor payment are required. The arrival at Heather Meadows can be a bit confusing due to all the activity at the ski area. Upon arrival at Heather Meadows, continue to drive around Picture Lake (one-way) and past the ski lifts. The large parking area is on the right at the end of the road. The trail begins left of the bathroom facilities.

Initially there are typically various tracks in the open, relatively flat terrain outside of the ski area. Depending on the route that you choose, after half a mile there are a few large cabins. At this point, head more uphill to the Austin Pass. During this climb (which gets a bit steeper), there is only a single track, which follows exactly the ski area boundary, which is clearly marked (do not enter the ski area). During this first section of the trip, there is no view of Mount Baker nor Mount Shuksan. Both are hiding behind various arms, but there are already gorgeous views to border with Canada and on the north-face of Table Mountain. Note that you should not follow the road to the Austin Pass. This road is in the ski area, and even if the ski area is not yet open, it is steep terrain with avalanche risk.

From Austin Pass, head southwest towards Artist Point. Again, there are many ways to get there. The direct route that avoids losing elevation is a bit steep. It is a rewarding trip to descend a bit into the wide open terrain, just below the summer road (which is usually not recognizable). The final climb to Artist Point is a bit steeper again, and flattens out into a beautiful slightly hilly area, which is where the summer parking area is hiding. With average snow levels, the outhouse of the Artist Point summer parking area is usually not visible at all, but it is fun to try to find it.

Mount Baker has been a tease so far: only now does it become visible, with the Ptarmigan Ridge leading to Baker from Table Mountain. Mount Shuksan to the northeast has two large arms, the Shuksan Arm to the west, and an arm to Mount Ann to the south. The Mount Ann arm obscures the views to the North Cascades, but the views on the Central Cascades are rewarding. In the valley to the south, parts of Baker Lake are visible.

From Artist Point a short side-trip of 1.5 miles roundtrip to Huntoon Point is a great way of taking in more of the scenery. This point is the natural eastern turnaround point on the Kulshan Ridge, which Artist Point is a part of as well.

It also possible to considerably extend your trip to eight miles by circumnavigating Table Mountain via the Chain Lakes (Iceberg Lake, Mazama Lake), but be extremely cautious about the south-facing slope of Table Mountain. This slope is very avalanche-prone and should be avoided if there is any risk of avalanches. A short side-trip to Bagley Lakes at the trailhead is another way to extend your trip, but be aware that this area is more exposed to avalanche risk as well.

On the drive back home it is worth stopping at the Nooksack Falls, which is a short walk only, and usually has a nice volume of water.

 

Artist Point Snowshoe

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.8616, -121.6825 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Snowshoe Routes Washington Dan A. Nelson Mountaineers Books.

Buy the Green Trails Mt. Shuksan No. 14 map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

From Bellingham follow the Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) to the very end (55 miles). The trailhead to Artist Point is at the last parking area on the Mt. Baker Highway. Upon arrival at Heather Meadows, continue to drive around Picture Lake (one-way) and past the ski lifts. The large parking area is on the right at the end of the road. The trail begins left of the bathroom facilities.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
Vehicle Access Limited: As of 10/07/21 Highway 542 is closed to cars for the winter season at the Bagley Lakes Trailhead milepost 54.7.
 

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Artist Point Snowshoe

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