So many of us look forward to the snow! It’s a great time to play, slide, ski, snowshoe, and winter camp. But it’s also a great time to look for next summer’s trips, and plan where you’re going once the weather breaks. For me, these are the months when my bucket list grows and grows. The way our local summer rolls out in the mountains around here, some areas are accessible by late May and some are closed until August. This makes for fun planning; stuffing empty weekends with backpacking potential based on what will most likely be melted out across the high-season.

Summer plans should definitely include  Artist Point and Ptarmigan Ridge as well as Table Mountain. This gorgeous locale is a relatively easy 3-hour drive from Seattle and allows both day hikes and 2-3 day traverses in the area. Mt Baker looms large to the southwest and Mt Shuksan, its near neighbor is prevalent in the southeast. If your timing is right you might get a sunset or a moon rise from a fun vantage point.

Mt Shuksan in Picture Lake

The Artist Point parking lot is at the end of Highway 542, a marvel in modern engineering. The hairpin turns and narrow stretches that were established  in 1925 give access to this high elevation jumping off point. But don’t run out there just yet.  Artist Point is in the convergence zone and often receives ridiculous amounts of snow. Last winter over 800 inches (yes, you read that right – 65 feet) of snow fell at the Artist Point parking lot. In the record snowfall year of 98-99 Artist Point measured 1,140 inches, or 95 feet of snow. After all that, Hwy 542 stays open most of the way to the Mt Baker Ski Area and much of the area is open to snowshoes and telemark skiing.  Washington State Dept of Transportation (WSDOT) has a FAQ for Artist Point that you may find helpful for planning your next visit.

Ptarmigan Ridge – this stretches from the parking area across ridges to Mt Baker’s flank. Good choice for a multi-day trip.

For summer planning, look for the road to open all the way to the Artist Point lot by the first week in August. Often it opens before then, but there are no guarantees. I’t dependent on spring weather. The crews spend weeks cutting through feet and feet of snow to clear it by late summer. Best times to visit are early September, right before it cools off again and most of the snow has vanished. By late October it has usually received its first snowfall again, closing the top 8 miles to cars.

Cairn at the top of Table Mountain

 

Mt Shuksan at Sunset from Table Mountain

 

Harvest Moonrise over the North Cascades
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