Hike Ptarmigan Ridge in the North Cascades
Washington › Artist Point
Added by Thadd Zehnder
The views start before you've even parked your vehicle and only get better once you get out. Mt. Baker is the star attraction out and Mt. Shuksan on your return…and all of it in one of the most beautiful alpine environments around. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete this one, as you'll want to stay as long as you can.
Directions are from Bellingham. Drive Sr 542(Mt Baker Highway) approximately 60 miles to the parking area at Artist Point, elev. 5140 ft. Try to park towards the southwest corner of the lot as this is where our trail begins. Toilets are available.
The trail starts from the southwest corner of the parking area and is labeled Galena Chain Lakes #682, its the trail that takes off to the left, not up Table Mountain. Starting out the trail will take you through a small grouping of trees before breaking out into the open. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled as a large group of mountain goats can typically be viewed from the trail in this area; down to your left…they can be difficult to spot so a pair of binoculars may come in handy. At 1.2 miles come to a junction, head left.
The trail continues up for a short bit before dropping down via several switchbacks. The next leg of the hike can take you across several steep snowfields depending on the time of year and the weather. Take care on the snow. If it makes you uncomfortable turn around and hike to the Chain Lakes or up Table Mountain, don't bite off more than you can chew. If the way is clear or you are confident in your ability to handle the snow, march onward and upward cresting a ridge that provides a peak of Baker Lake below. Berries can also be had here if its the right season and other haven't gotten to them already.
The trail continues upward along the side of an exposed ridge providing amazing views of the adjacent mountain peaks. The trail will round a small knoll at elevation 5800 ft. Snow can be an issue here as well. Again, take care and be safe. In another mile reach Coleman Pinnacle. If you haven't noticed it yet, Mt Baker should be larger than life at this point. The winds coming off the glaciers can be chilly here even in the summer. If you have it in you continue on a bit further to Camp Kiser. This is the turn around for those of us who can't call ourselves mountaineers. It also makes a nice camping spot and an awesome spot to view Rainbow Glacier. On your return look down to you right. You should notice an incredibly blue-green tarn(if it is warm enough for the ice to melt). This makes a nice side trip if you haven't had enough yet.
- 10 essentials
- Northwest Forest Pass
- Binoculars for watching mountain goats
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