Picture Lake Path/Heather Meadows
Picture Lake Path/Heather Meadows
Mt. Shuksan/Mt. Baker
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest
Picture Lake/Mt. Shuksan
I headed up to Mt Baker/Mt. Shuksan for a day of photography with a good friend of mine. The drive was long and slow, but the view and experience of being in and around those majestic mountains made the time it took to get there well worth it. We drove from Lake Stevens and decided to take the scenic and what we thought would be the quick route, Hwy 9. It was a beautiful drive but if you figure in the reduced speed and the amount of curves it takes a little bit longer. I calculated on google maps that it takes about 20 minutes longer using hwy 9 rather than I-5.
So we drove north on Hwy 9 all the way to Hwy 542, which is the Mt. Baker Hwy. Hwy 542 starts in Deming and to get all the way to Picture Lake Trail, which is near the Mt Baker Ski Area, it takes another hour and a half. So for us it took about 3 hours. With enough planned stops, snacks and good conversation, the drive will seem well worth it when you witness the breathtaking views of the North Cascades.
Ultimately my whole objective for traveling up there was to photograph Mt Shuksan at ‘Picture Lake’ (see photo at top of page). Rightfully titled since it is positioned in front of the mountain offering a perfect reflection if the day and moment is just right. They call Mt. Shuksan the most photographed mountain in America. So I thought, how could I call myself a photographer if I haven’t photographed the most photographed mountain in America? So with that as my goal we picked a clear day and headed up north. I was hoping for a windless day in hopes of avoiding any ripples in my reflection shot, but being so high in elevation the odds are slim of having no wind.
Once you travel on 542 a while there are some amazing turnouts to view Mt. Baker. We stopped at the Glacier Public Service Center to pick up maps and to use the restroom. The center is very informative and they have a small store with books and educational stuff for the kids. I recommend stopping in if you go up there. We also stopped at “Nooksack Falls” at milepost 40. It’s a spectacular 100 ft waterfall with a fence lined pathway for easy viewing. The sound of the rushing water is intense and it was tough breaking myself away to continue our journey.
As we made our way up 4100 ft to Picture Lake, the hairpin turns were a little daunting but the higher we went the more breathtaking the mountain scenery became. Picture Lake kind of sneaks up on you and is at a fork in the road. Stay to the right and you’ll be surprised at how close it is to the road. The parking area was just off the hwy and the .5 mile path began just out of the parking lot.
The path encircles the small lake, and there is a viewing platform with benches for the best view of Mt. Shuksan. As you walk along the path the ground is covered in wild flowers, and shallow waters filled with reeds follow alongside the path. The most amazing reflections of the evergreens and foliage are displayed from every viewpoint along the path too. It’s only a short stroll around the lake but the view of the mountains, the flowers, and the lake itself is a serene experience.
After walking slowly around Picture Lake we headed further up the hwy to Heather Meadows visitor center. The Mount Baker highway ends at Artist point at 5100 ft. Because there was a significant amount of snow when we were there, we could not go any further than Heather Meadows. Artist Point wasn’t an option so we parked in at the visitor center.
Heather Meadows Visitor Center parking lot
We soon realized that the snow was still present and quite deep in some spots. However, the view of the surrounding mountains was amazing. Mt. Baker was looming above majestically, and the mountain vistas were breathtaking.
Heather Meadows has picnic tables, restrooms, and ample parking. The visitor center has exhibits depicting the history of the area. Very old mountain Hemlock trees are in abundance in this area, and I found their small size to be of interest. This fact is due to their very short growing season and cold temperatures.
Fire and Ice Trail with Table Mountain in the background
There are several trails in the area which range from short accessible paths to strenuous hikes. Fire and Ice Trail is located near the visitor center and is a .5 mile loop complete with interpretive signs explaining the landscape and history. Table Mountain hike is a 1 mile (one way) more difficult hike with an elevation gain of 600 ft. The trail starts at Artist Point. The Artist Ridge trail is a 1 mile loop and also offers interpretive displays along the path.`
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to experience any of the hikes on this trip, so I can’t offer any first hand information. This gives me a great excuse as to why I need to come back sooner than later. 🙂