The Mount Baker Highway (Hwy 542) is a spur route that winds for 62 miles east of Bellingham up to beautiful Mount Baker. Along the scenic route are some of Washington’s coolest mountain towns and most awesome hikes.
Mount Baker is a 4-season destination, with plenty of snow to play in all winter and spring, replaced by carpets of wildflowers in summer and stunning fall color in autumn.
One of the indigenous names for Mount Baker is Koma Kulshan, which loosely translates into white mountain with a puncture would on top (the crater). Baker is the second-most thermally active volcano in the Cascade range after Mount St. Helens. You won’t see steam pluming from Baker’s top (at least let’s hope not!) but you will see plenty of white snow in winter months.
Make the tiny town of Maple Falls or the tinier town of Glacier your home base for a day of skiing the slopes or exploring the terrain in hiking boots.
The Mount Baker Highway is State Hwy 542, and runs to the east from Bellingham into the heart of the North Cascades, ending after 62 miles on Mount Baker, ending at Kulshan Ridge / Artist Point. Remember to check conditions before your trip, as this region experiences a late-season melt-out.
Things to Do
- From July – September, the Mount Baker Highway hosts trailheads to some of Washington’s most scenic trails. An easy option for all ages is Bagley Lakes Loop (2 miles round trip, 150 feet elevation) packs in a seasonal waterflower display, a gushing creek, two lakes and lovely views of craggy, jaggy peaks.
- Go downhill skiing at the Mount Baker Ski Area, great for skiers at every level. They offer kid and youth ski lessons and feature learner-friendly ski runs. Equipment rentals are available. Mount Baker has snow right into springtime. Its long snow season coupled with affordable lift tickets help make Baker a magnet for powder-loving travelers well into April most years.
- One of the state’s premiere snowshoe routes, Artist Point, is just beyond the ski area. The route is best left to experienced snowshoers, and checks in at 5.5 miles round-trip.
Where to Eat
- Stop at Everybody’s Store just south of Deming on your way up to Mt. Baker for dinner supplies like cocoa, wine, cheeses and custom-made sausages. They also make delicious deli sandwiches to order.
- Milano’s Restaurant and Deli in Glacier is a favorite hangout after a day on the slopes—try their homemade pasta dishes, Caesar salad and tiramisu for dessert.
- Tucked behind Milano’s a block off the main highway in Glacier is the Wake n Bakery, makers of a reliably great cup of coffee alongside a selection of pastries, quiche and more.
- Graham’s Restaurant in Glacier serves up post-hike grub like burgers and fish & chips.
- If you just want a pizza and craft beer (or barleywine!), head to North Fork Brewery for a post-hike hand-tossed pie.
Where to Sleep
This area has bed and breakfasts and inns, as well as and plenty of vacation cabin and condo rentals.
CAMP: Our favorite place to pitch a tent is Silver Fir Campground (open May – September),a forest service campground with 21 campsites set on the North Fork Nooksack River 14 miles beyond the town of Glacier.
Discover the stunning scenery that abounds in the North Cascades region, where hikers indulge in the drama of steep peaks, deep valleys, and everything in between. From the San Juan Islands to Rainy Pass, guidebook author Craig Romano hiked every step of the trails featured in this essential guidebook. For each hike you’ll get all the info you need (elevation, round trip mileage, driving directions) as well as Romano’s personal take on what makes the trail worth your time. Buy this one and it will never leave your car! (also available for Kindle)
Hot Showers, Soft Beds, and Dayhikes in the North Cascades, by Sally O’Neal Coates
It’s too bad this book is out of print currently, but you can pick up a used copy via Amazon or try your local library.
Hate camping? This is the ideal book for hikers who prefer to start the day with a good breakfast and end the day with a hot shower. Sally O’Neal Coates shows you where to trek in this land of waterfalls and snowcapped peaks and where to slumber and feast in rustic cabins or charmed B & Bs.
Photos: Skiing at Mount Baker by Simon Wex. The trail above Bagley Lakes by Nordique. Downtown Glacier by mwkelley, Mount Shuskan reflected in one of the Reflection Ponds in the Mount Baker Ski Area by ideld,