Monday, August 14th, 2017
In Search of Summer Snow – A Trip to Mt. Baker
HIlary Parker

It’s the middle of summer. It’s hot.

What’s the best way to beat the heat?

Ice cream is good. So is jumping in the lake.

And sledding.

Sledding??

Yes, sledding.

It’s one of the benefits of living so close to Mt. Baker.

Summer snow at Artist Point

At 5,100 feet above sea level, Artist Point on Mt. Baker is the terminus of Highway 542 – the literal end of the road, and snow is often still abundant in mid summer.

Artist Point viewpoint, Mt. Baker

The elevation makes this road unpassable much of the year. The road typically closes when the first snow flies in October and remains closed until June, which means there’s often abundant snow for summertime sledding.

In our search for summertime snow, we first made a quick stop to fuel up our bellies at LaFeens Donuts in Bellingham, a favorite of locals located across from Whatcom Falls park.

LaFeens Donuts, Bellingham, WA

Then we settled in for a picturesque drive along the Mt. Baker Scenic Byway, taking us through farmland then densely wooded forest before giving way to the wind-gnarled trees and amazing vistas of Mt. Baker.

Heather Meadows, Mt. Baker

Unfortunately, those vistas were marred by the haze covering the region during the recent wildfires to the north in Canada. Nonetheless, we had some spectacular views. The littlest, 6-year-old Kaylee, hadn’t been to Baker before. She was truly captivated by the tall peaks above us, the mountain lakes, and the pretty wildflowers that bloom in the summer.

Little girl and wildflowers, Mt. Baker

Our first stop on the mountain was at the Austin Pass Picnic Area at Heather Meadows. After our 90-plus minute drive up the hill, we welcomed the chance to stretch our legs.

“I see snow!” I sung out as we reached Heather Meadows. My announcement was met with a chorus of cheers from the back of the minivan.

Detail of snow at Mt. Baker

 

Naturally, our first stop was a snow field ringed with wildflowers near the parking area. (Reminder, you do need a parking pass.)

We then explored the trails around the picnic area and the historic Visitors Center. I could have stayed here exploring the trails all afternoon, but I’d promised sledding, so we headed up the road about a mile further to our final destination at Artist Point.

Kids at Artist Point, Mt. Baker

We weren’t disappointed as we pulled into the parking lot at Artist Point. The snow atop the rocky landscape looked almost other-worldly, especially with the hazy skies. Vast snow fields beckoned to the kids to come sledding! So after a quick lunch sitting on some of the few rocks not covered in snow (Artist Point has public restrooms but no picnic tables), we hit the slopes.

kids sledding in summer at Mt. Baker

We had dressed in layers and packed gloves and warm coats in preparation for the cold snow, but it turned out the temperature was much hotter than the weather report I had read earlier that morning. Nearing 80 degrees, jeans and T-shirts were just right for our sledding adventure.

Teenager sledding at Mt. Baker

We sledded for about an hour before finally pooping out. With big grins on their faces, the kids piled back into the minivan for our trip back down the mountain.

It was AMAZING how quiet the kids were on the ride down the mountain. Always the sign of a good time in the outdoors.

5 children sledding at Mt. Baker

For more fun family ideas in Bellingham and Whatcom County see the full list of Hilary’s articles.

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About the Author:

Hilary Parker is a writer and editor living in Bellingham. She is the mother of two and stepmother of three, ranging in age from 6-13. Her Brady-Bunch style family likes to explore the local trails.