Don’t let the distance of this hike intimidate you. The best part of the Ptarmigan Ridge at Mount Baker is the fact that, no matter how far you hike, the views are spectacular. Due to its high elevation, about 6,000 feet above sea level, the trail has little incline but keeps hikers close to the action. Mount Baker will seem touchable as you wander through Sound of Music-like patches of wildflowers and glacial streams that surround the mountain. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as this trail offers little shade. Plan to make the journey toward the end of the summer or early fall to avoid snow.
While the drive to Artist Point is about an hour-and-a-half from Bellingham, the journey is worth the trip. Mount Baker Highway, also known as Washington State Route 542, takes travelers up and up the mountain, providing impressive views before the hike even starts.
To reach the trailhead, take exit 255 for Sunset Drive off Interstate 5 and head east on S.R. 542 until its end at Artist Point. The parking lot at the top of the mountain services multiple trailheads, but you’ll follow signs toward Chain Lakes Trail. The route will take you along a ridgeline that makes for a great spot to scout for mountain goats. Be sure to pack the binoculars. The first junction comes after just a mile, follow the signs for Ptarmigan Ridge straight ahead. As you continue along the rocky ridge, check out Mount Baker and the Coleman Glacier to the west. The next junction will come 3.8 miles from the trailhead, where you’ll spot Goat Lake to the south, which is a popular spot for campers when the lake still holds water. Take a seat on the most comfortable rock available and let your eyes wander the vista as you gather your thoughts and breath. Although the trail does continue another mile or so, this is my recommended ending point for day hikers.
Length: 9 Miles Roundtrip
Pass/Fee: Northwest Forest Pass Required