Table Mountain reflected in alpine lake along the Mount Baker Scenic Byway

Before leaving the Heather Meadows area, I stopped for a picnic lunch in a parking area adjacent to this small alpine lake.  It featured a perfect reflection of Table Mountain on its mirrored surface.

Another network of hiking trails originates from this parking area.  I elected to walk a short, 1/2-mile, loop trail called the Fire and Ice Interpretive Trail.  This was another easy hike with lots to see and marvel at.

The Fire and Ice Interpretive Trail

Spectacular fall colors along the trail

The heather (green) and huckleberry (red) grow together low to the ground.

These old trees are slow growing in the alpine landscape.

Pearly everlasting

Fire and Ice Interpretive Trail 

Overlooking a lake in the basin below the trail

Interesting water features

I don’t know what gives the waters their interesting colors.

Overlooking another chain of lakes

Snow-capped peak of Mount Baker viewed from Artist Point

The Mount Baker Scenic Byway dead-ends at Artist Point, about 58 miles from Bellingham.  The road gains elevation in a series of hairpin turns and curves.  There are snow patches everywhere, including a tall bank of dirty snow in the parking lot.  The entire area at the end of the road is called Heather Meadows, and this low green plant provides the ground cover along with huckleberry bushes.

Winding Hwy 542 as it nears Artist Point

Greeted by a tall bank of dirty snow at the edge of the parking lot at Artist Point

Hikers have a choice among several trails that start from the Artist Point parking lot.  One thing I love about the Mount Baker Scenic Byway is that you can see some spectacular scenery without much effort, just a short trek from the car.  But if you want a more strenuous workout, you can hike some of the longer trails in the network.

I wasn’t prepared for a long solo hike, so I simply walked a short distance to Huntoon Point.  The views of Mount Baker were just stupendous.  At 10,781 feet, Mount Baker is the third highest peak in Washington State (after Mount Rainier and Mount Adams), and it is snow covered all year long.

View of Mount Baker from Artist Point

A distant view of the Cascade range from the trail at Artist Point

A glacier on Mount Shuksan

Two snags amidst the heather and huckleberries

Looking across to Table Mountain and a distant trail

If you look closely, you can see two hikers (the dark specks) on the trail.

Mount Baker with contrail

Mount Shuksan mirrored in Picture Lake

This little lake, appropriately called Picture Lake, is right along the Mount Baker Scenic Byway near the Mount Baker Ski Area.  When I arrived here, I knew the trip was worth it without even getting to the end of the road.  Just look at this classic mountain scene!  I learned that this particular image — Mount Shuksan reflected in the still waters of Picture Lake — is one of the most photographed in all of North America.  You may even have seen it on a calendar somewhere.

There is an easy 1/2-mile trail around the lake, and I enjoyed every step.  The air was fresh and crystal clear.  The fall colors — especially the stained-glass window colors of the low huckleberry  (or possibly blueberry) bushes and the brilliant red clusters of berries on the mountain ash — gave this peaceful spot an unmatched resplendence.

Fall colors on the shores of Picture Lake

Jewel-like colors reflected in the lake

Clusters of red berries on mountain ash

Picture Lake with ski lift on distant mountain


Fireweed and tansy (?) along the road

The low huckleberry bushes glowed like stained glass.

Reeds in the lake — water calligraphy

Dead tree in the meadow by Picture Lake

Another view of Mount Shuksan from across Picture Lake

Fall leaves at Picture Lake

Early morning fog along the Mount Baker Highway near Bellingham

I do love a road trip.  Sometimes it still surprises me how I’ve yet to see many parts of Washington State, even after living here for more than thirty years.  This week I took a day trip along Highway 542, the Mount Baker Highway, and realized that this was unexplored territory for me.  I never knew what I was missing!

The Mount Baker Highway is designated as a Washington State Scenic Byway.  It starts in Bellingham (90 miles north of Seattle), and it’s just 58 miles to its end at Artist Point overlooking snow-capped Mount Baker. The outdoor adventure company, GORP, names this road one of the “Top Ten Scenic Mountain Drives” in North America.

I’ll devote several more posts to some of the spectacular spots I discovered along the way.  But today’s post will share the experience of the drive itself — a virtual road trip.  Enjoy the ride!

Fog along Hwy 542

A flock of Canada geese

Heading east toward the Cascade Mountains, blue in the distance

Towering trees in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Little bits of fall color amidst the evergreen

The road ascends

Surrounded by high peaks

Curving Mount Baker Highway near Artist Point at 5,100 feet of elevation