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Mt. Baker Area -- Day 16/17


Mt. Baker! On my first trip to the North Cascades back in 2022 our innkeepers highly suggested visiting the Mt. Baker area. We unfortunately did not have the time, but on our roadtrip from PA to Seattle, WA., 2023 was our year! I can't believe what I've been missing. The entire Mt Baker area (I think it's called the Mt. Baker Wilderness?) is out of this world. Absolutely stunning. Everyone goes crazy about Mt Rainier, but please don't sleep on the Mt. Baker area! We absolutely loved it!

Mt Baker from Artist Point
THERE's Mt Baker in all its glory! Seen from a trail off of Artist Point

Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542)

This is the main road that takes you deep into the Mount Baker area. It's a scenic byway that begins in Bellingham and ends at Artist's Point, passing through a variety of landscapes — from lush forests to alpine terrain. Along the way, you'll find several points of interest, trailheads, and viewpoints. During winter, the last part of the highway leading to Artist's Point may be closed due to snow, but the area becomes a haven for winter sports.

Picture Lake 


Mt Shuksan and Picture Lake
PICTURE PERFECT Mt. Shuksan reflecting off of Picture Lake. What a beautiful day!

Nestled in the Heather Meadows region, Picture Lake provides one of the most accessible and sublime views of Mount Shuksan. The lake's calm waters, when undisturbed, mirror the towering peak of Mount Shuksan, creating a surreal landscape. This scene, especially during the fall with a tapestry of vibrant foliage or during a tranquil sunset, is a photographer's dream.

The boardwalk around Picture Lake makes for an easy, short walk, suitable for all ages and abilities. Interpretive signs along the way provide insights into the area's ecology and geology.

Mount Shuksan

In the heart of the Cascades, Mount Shuksan is a sight that remains etched in my memory. Rising majestically to 9,131 feet, its silhouette is a breathtaking blend of rugged cliffs, intricate glaciers, and the kind of natural beauty that draws visitors from all corners of the world. The mountain's sheer magnitude is a humbling sight, reminding every observer of nature's grandeur.

The surrounding landscapes of Shuksan are equally mesmerizing. Winding trails beckon adventurers, offering a diverse array of terrains and viewpoints. Each path provides its own unique perspective of Shuksan, from dense forests that open up to reveal the mountain's base to higher vantage points that offer panoramic vistas of its majestic peak.

Shuksan over a big puddle on artist's ridge
Near the end of the Mt Baker Highway. Mt Shuksan towers over a puddle on the Artists Ridge Trail towards Huntoon Point

For anyone with a passion for the outdoors, Mount Shuksan represents the best of the Pacific Northwest – a harmonious blend of raw wilderness and scenic tranquility. Whether you're an avid hiker or simply someone looking to appreciate nature's wonders, Shuksan promises an experience like no other. I mistook Shuksan for Mt Baker for quite a while on this day before realizing my mistake. Don't make my mistake! Shuksan deifnitely holds a candle to the rest of the mighty mountains of the PNW! We parked at the end of the Mt. Baker highway at Artist Point where there is a decent amount of parking to explore the area. 

Artist Point

This viewpoint is located at the end of the Mount Baker Highway and offers some of the most breathtaking views of both Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. The point is accessible via a short trail and is a popular spot for photography, especially during sunset and sunrise. In the winter, it's a popular spot for snowshoeing. Parking here allows you to reach several trailheads such as Chain Lakes, Table Mountain, Ptarmigan Ridge, Artist Ridge (and Huntoon Point). There are "bathrooms" at the parking lot. They need some scent mitigation because MAN the scent was pungent....

Mt Shuksan from an Ice Cave at Artist Point
Mt Shuksan from Artist Point standing on an Ice Cave in Early August

Picture Lake Mt Baker Mt Shuksan
I had to get more pictures in at Picture Lake. More mountains more reflections!

Bagley Lakes Loop Trail

The Bagley Lakes Loop Trail is a gem nestled within the Heather Meadows area, providing a perfect blend of accessibility and natural beauty that appeals to hikers of all levels. As you tread along the 2-mile loop, the pristine waters of Bagley Lakes shimmer in the sunlight, reflecting the surrounding mountains and sky in its mirror-like surface. The trail itself is well-maintained and meanders through a mix of dense forests and open meadows, offering hikers a diverse range of environments in a short distance.

Every step on this trail seems to reveal a new perspective of the lake and its surroundings. Wildflowers, in their blooming season, paint the meadows in hues of purple, yellow, and white, creating a picturesque scene that's perfect for photographers. Birdwatchers can also find joy here, as the region is home to a variety of avian species.


Bagley Lakes / Creek Loop Bridge
Bridge on the Bagley Lake / Creek Loop Trails. What an insanely beautiful area


The gentle elevation changes make this loop ideal for families, including those with young children. Many choose to pause at the lakeside for a leisurely picnic, with the gentle lapping of the waters and chirping of birds as their backdrop. The clear waters of the lake also beckon anglers, who can often be seen casting their lines in hope of a good catch.

For those visiting in winter, the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland. The snow-covered trail and frozen lake offer a whole new experience. The serenity of the snow-blanketed forest and the crunch of snowshoes on fresh powder make snowshoeing here a magical experience. Whether you're building a snowman by the lakeside or simply enjoying the silence broken only by the distant call of a raven, Bagley Lakes in winter is as enchanting as it is in summer.


Bagley Creek at Mt Baker
The fiercely flowing Bagley Creek


Chain Lakes Loop

This is a more challenging hiking trail, usually ranging between 6 to 8 miles depending on the starting point. The trail offers some of the best views in the area, passing by several alpine lakes and offering panoramic views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. It's a popular trail, especially in the summer and fall when the wildflowers are in bloom. We didn't make it here on our trip, but we sure will head there next time, since Seattle is our new home!

Nooksack Falls

Along the scenic Mount Baker Highway, hidden amidst the verdant landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, lies the captivating Nooksack Falls in Whatcom County. On our journey, we were drawn to its enchanting allure. From an impressive height of 88 feet, the water dramatically cascades into a rugged canyon, set against a backdrop of towering trees.The viewpoints of the falls are somewhat limited due to the dangerousness of the terrain and the cliffsides are fenced off. There's signs everywhere to remain as cautious as possible, and to let the professionals handle the close up pictures of the falls. There's even a poster / memorial of the people who have died at the falls. It's nearly a dozen! The access road on the way down almost killed our car too! Holy unmaintained rough road!

Nooksack Falls Washington Mt Baker
Nooksack Falls from a safe distance

Lake Ann 

Lake Ann is another beautiful alpine lake situated in the North Cascades, not far from Mount Shuksan. It's a popular hiking destination and offers striking views of the surrounding peaks, including Mount Shuksan itself. The lake lies in a cirque (a kind of bowl-shaped, steep-walled valley), and glaciers from Mount Shuksan feed into it. The trailhead for this was PACKED. People we're toppling over each other to park ANYWHERE to get to Lake Ann. We didn't have time to do this hike, but we definitely will try next time we're in the area! 


We actually stayed in the area for two nights and booked a VRBO in Glacier, WA. I've never booked a VRBO or an airBNB before and have always been kind of wary of them but...It was definitely a good experience. It was with Luxury Getaways and was in what seemed to be a condo/timeshare unit community at Snowater Resort. It was right off of the Mt. Baker Highway secluded in the woods on the Nooksack River. We could even hear the river running at night!
They knew we were bringing dogs with us and even provided us a doggie welcome pack that had some toys, water bowl and other things in it for us to keep. Pretty cool!
View from the balcony
We had morning coffee on our cute balcony! Very peaceful area



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