Highway 542 - Mt. Baker Highway




The road to Artist Point can have gravel in corners but the views are worth itMt. Baker Highway is a "must-ride" for anyone who can find a way to get there. The road is in fantastic shape, the corners get tighter and more fun as make your way up. Throw in the stunning views of the North Cascades and you have a recipe for one of the best roads in the state.

Highway 542 begins in Bellingham but the part you are looking for starts at the East junction of 542 and hwy 9 near the Nooksack River Casino. Four or five miles of slowly winding road will bring you to a couple of 90 degree corners to get you warmed up for the ride. Veer right after the corners to stay on 542 and take it easy passing through Maple Falls. You'll hit a few fun and fast sweepers before coming up on the last two small towns Wamick and Glacier. Once passing Glacier and the nearby ranger station, it's time to have fun with nothing but an increasing twisty road to slow you down.

You'll pass several alpine lakes on your way to the top Past Glacier is about 20 miles of the some of the best stretch of twisties in the state. The first half is filled with fast smooth corners with signs recommending speeds between 25 and 45 mph. Law enforcement is generally not to prevalent out here but occasionally there are Border Patrol so keep an eye out. Most of the corners have good visibility with few surprises.

Not to long after passing Glacier you'll see a sign showing twisty roads for the next 11 miles. The road is about to get even better. As you head uphill, open sweepers give way to tighter blind corners. Several of the blind corners go on for a little longer then guess, so concentrate to avoid running wide to the other lane. As you continue uphill the forest turns into rocky cliffs and the road tightens up even more.

The smooth corners will make you want to go for repeat passes Tight, 15mph switchbacks, 20mph s-turns, uphill and downhill, the last 10 miles of the Mt. Baker hwy are tight, technical and an absolute blast. But watch out in the 15mph corners, there is often gravel on the inside of the corners and drivers who can't stay in their lanes.

The main road ends at Heather Meadows. As you arrive the road splits into a one-way as you curve around Picture Lake. Picture Lake is a great place to stop and take photos. If you walk down to the lake you can take pictures as it mirrors Mt. Shuksan in the distance. Getting back on the bike you'll follow the road up to the ski lodge. In the spring time, the ride ends here and it's time for a break before braving the 15mph downhill hairpins. But when the upper mountain begins to thaw (usually June), Artist Point opens up adding a few more miles and even tighter hairpins to the ride.

The alpine forests you pass through are beautiful The trip up Artist Point is well worth it. The views are incredible once you reach the top. Artist point demands caution, more then anywhere else on hwy 542. Many of the corners are even tighter then the 15mph hairpins down below and the road surface is more worn. The corners are also unmarked so it's easy to get suprised by a corner with a decreasing radius when you didn't expect it.

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