Snow Camping at Artist Point
“I wish I could go backpacking again next weekend,” I say to Lisa and there is a hint of gloom in my voice. We are coming down from Talapus Lake where we spent the previous night, a peaceful night watching the mist slowly rising from the surface of the lake, listening to the hoots of an owl. A perfect night surrounded by a quiet snow laden forest, a night I would very much like to repeat soon. But there are phone calls to be made, and there is an apartment to be cleaned, and all the other chores I left undone when I hopped in my Jeep and let it whisk me away into the mountains for the entire weekend. “I still would like to go for a day hike though. Let’s check the forecast mid-week to see which day makes more sense.”
Five sunshines stare at me when I click the forecast open on Tuesday evening. The sight sends me into an immediate panic mode. Five sunny days stretching over Saturday and Sunday. Daytime temperatures are expected in the 50’s, nighttime barely touching freezing. In Washington. In February. I blink a few times, making sure I have not just hallucinated this unicorn weather but surely the five sunshines are still there.
“I think I can shift a few things around,” I text Lisa and when Saturday morning comes, I’m once again at the wheel heading for the mountains, while all my cleaning supplies rest peacefully in the closet.
Artist Point has arguably one of the best views in Washington State and typically a deep snowpack during the winter months which makes it a great snow camping destination. The route rolls over several small hills before climbing more steeply towards its final objective, rewarding snowshoers with a stunning view of Mt. Shuksan to the East, Mt. Baker to the Southwest, and countless peaks of the North Cascades anywhere in between.
In the summer, you would find a large parking lot here, and a trailhead offering adventures deeper into the backcountry of Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. In the wintertime, this billowy expanse stretching towards Huntoon Point will be your final destination. There are many good spots here to set up camp and since the entire trail is only about mile and a half long, you will have plenty of time to roam around and take hundreds of photographs.
Distance: 3 miles RT
El. Gain: 850 feet
Avalanche danger: The route crosses avalanche prone terrain and should be avoided if avalanche potential is high, considerable, or extreme.
From Bellingham follow the Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) to the very end (55 miles). The trailhead to Artist Point is at the last parking area on the Mt. Baker Highway. Upon arrival at Heather Meadows, continue to drive around Picture Lake (one-way) and past the ski lifts. The large parking area is on the right at the end of the road. The trail begins left of the bathroom facilities. All vehicles, except all wheel drives, are required to carry chains from November to April.
A permit is required for an overnight parking at Heather Meadows and can be obtained online: Parking Permit – Unoccupied Vehicle
Day hikers/snowshoers can park for free. Come early, the lots fills quickly.
Wow! That is some real winter camping! You are intrepid and look quite fine with bed head. I confess that I’ve never done any winter camping. I’m glad you’re out there experiencing it all.