Mount Baker is part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and is a major outdoor recreation area (ski, snowboard, mountaineer, hike, etc.) located east of Bellingham (Washington). It is one of the five major stratovolcanoes in the area that have produced over 200 eruptions in the last 12,000 years.
Mt. Baker has worn several appellations in its 400,000 years. Long before white settlers came, Nooksack Indians called it quck-sman-ik, meaning "white mountain." The Lummi Indians near Bellingham Bay called it kulshan, meaning "broken off." Presumably, they were referring to the frequent volcanic activity.
English explorer Captain George Vancouver rededicated the mountain while charting the region in 1792. He named it for Lt. Joseph Baker, a young officer in his command who spotted the peak while their sloop "Discovery" was sailing off the coast of Washington, near Dungeness Bay.
Flora and fauna
Temperatures in the Mt. Baker area range from 70s with clear skies in the summer to upper 20s with rain and snow through the winter. Annual rainfall in the lowlands is 30 to 50 inches. At higher elevations, precipitation ranges from 70 to 140 inches.
In 1999, Mt. Baker set the new world's record for the most snowfall ever measured in a single season-- 1,140 inches (2,895.6 centimeters)!
To get there from Bellingham (Washington), take I-5 to exit 255, take Sunset Drive east until it becomes state highway 542, and follow that highway 56 miles to the ski area. This drive takes about 90 minutes in good weather conditions. The road is plowed regularly, so it should be passable to regular cars except during storms. Note, however, that chains may be required on two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles during inclement weather as determined by the Washington State Patrol. Only vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight rating must carry chains between November 1 and March 31.
Another popular route, for Canadians, is to take the Sumas border crossing, in Abbotsford, and continue following the road signs as you drive southeast for 45 minutes.
A Northwest forest pass is required to park at all trailheads and at the Artist Point parking lot. Passes can be acquired at all ranger stations or by calling: (800) 270-7504.
- Day Pass $5
- Annual Pass $30
- Federal Golden passports are also honored at NW Forest and park sites:
- Golden Eagle $65 (federal annual pass)
- Golden Age $10 (lifetime pass for US citizens 62+)
- Golden Access Free (Qualified Disabled US Citizen)
Summer A summer must see is the blooming alpine flowers found on many high level trails. The late snow melt means that the flowers bloom quite late in the year, usually late July or August. Fireweed and Columbine are some of the most amazing.
Picture Lake, at milepost 55, provides a postcard view of Mt. Shuksan and is a popular photography stop.
The Mount Baker Ski Area has seven lifts, covering 1500' (455m) elevation gain. The area claims typical snowfall of 647 inches (1,638 cm) per year. Adult lift tickets are approximately USD $40 per day, while an adult season pass is about $660 (as of December 2005; various discounts available).
Hiking. An abundance of trails cover the Mt. Baker area as soon as the snow melts. From the Artist Point parking lot (the end of the road) a few of the more popular trails are the demanding climb of Table Mountain, the stimulating variety of Chain Lakes Loop and the awe inspiring closeness of the mountain itself at Ptarmigan Ridge.
For those with less ability to walk a distance the Artist Loop trail provides a great view of the mountain on an accessible paved loop, with the opportunity to continue up the hill just a little way to find small meadows and late summer ponds which are perfect private lunching spots. The rocky terrain here makes it feel like you are in the backcountry when in reality you are less than a mile from your car.
There are two day lodges with parking and full amenities (White Salmon and Heather Meadows), and a third ski-in lodge ("Raven Hot Cafe") with food. Tip: bring US Dollar cash; while MasterCard and Visa are accepted for lift tickets and gear rentals, cash gets you a discount, and only cash is accepted at some food counters. Heather Meadows lodge is a better starting point for new visitors, since it has a wider range of gear rental and good access to the slopes.
- Mt Baker Lodging. Provides the closest places to stay to the mountain itself. Most of their cabins are located in and around Glacier (about 30 minutes from the upper parking lot). A variety of different cabins to choose from can make for a quiet get away in the woods or a weekend in a cabin for ten with friends. Prices are in the mid to upper range depending on size and amenities of the cabin. 1-800-709-7669.
- Canyon Creek Chalets. Offers private, self catered, fully equipped vacation lodging, located 35 minutes from the Mt. Baker Ski Area and minutes away from the Mount Baker Recreation Area. Each cedar chalet comes with furnishings, bed and bath linens, kitchen utensils, TV/DVD, DVD movie collection, and outdoor hot tub. 1-866-839-5342.
The US Forest Service maintains three campgrounds situated along the Nooksack River on Hwy 542 east of Glacier: For information call 360-856-5700 Mt. Baker Ranger District
- Douglas Fir. Has 30 tent sites at Milepost 36.
- Excelsior. A group site with two units that hold 50 people each at Milepost 40.
- Silver Fir. Has 20 tent sites at Milepost 46.
- The Inn at Mt. Baker, 8174 Mt. Baker Hwy., Deming, WA 98244 (In the Cascade Mountains on Rte 542, Mt. Baker Hwy, 30 miles East of Bellingham, 7 miles west of the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest and 23 miles west of the Mt. Baker Ski Area), ☎ . Check-in: 4PM-6PM, check-out: 11AM. European style Bed & Breakfast. Amenities include a gourmet breakfast, hot tub, free parking, feather beds, and a helicopter landing pad. Close to the Mt. Baker Ski Area. NOTE: no children or pets. $150-180.
- Use caution on access roads: watch for obstructions such as rocks, sudden bends, and parked vehicles/pedestrians.
- Safeguard your possessions by keeping them out of sight. Lock your vehicle.
- Carry the ten essentials.
- Stay on trails. Wear adequate footwear and use a topographic map/compass.
- After hiking, check yourself for ticks which may carry Lyme disease.
- Horses can startle easily. When stock approach, make your presence known and stand on the lower side of the trail.
- Report down trees or washouts to the nearest ranger station.
- Do not depend on cell phones as there are many 'dead spots.'
- Always tell a friend your travel plans including destination and expected return time.
The North Cascades is home to many species of wildlife from a common chipmunk to a grizzly bear, it is important to keep wildlife wild. Animals can be attracted to food and other scents. Human food is both unhealthy for animals and can lead to potentially dangerous encounters with bears.
- Try to have your sleeping area about 100 yards (90 m) up wind from your cooking area. Keep sleeping gear free of food odors and cosmetic scents.
- Store food, garbage and toiletry items in either bear-resistant canisters (available on loan from National Park Service offices) or strung up 15 feet (5 m) off the ground and at least 5 feet (1.5 m) from tree trunks.
- Pack out all food waste.
- Never feed wildlife.