Last winter, my husband and I spent an exciting weekend snowshoeing the Artist Point Snowshoe Trail and wow – just wow!
Without spoiling too much, too soon (my specialty), I can confidently say that snowshoeing Artist Point lives up to the hype. And you know what they say — a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’d like to share mine with you.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s worth mentioning that Artist Point is often considered THE BEST view point in Washington state. Quite a reputation to live up to, huh?
Quick Tip: Remember to pack sunscreen! I swear by this sunscreen, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. It works like a charm and doesn’t leave strange residue or smells, you’ll NEVER catch me without it!
Also, I’ve had 6+ various pairs of snowshoes throughout the years — these are by far the best, no competition.
Where is the Artist Point Snowshoe Trail?
- Artist Point is on Mt. Baker National Forest, which borders North Cascades National Park (often called the American Alps — the mountain range is breathtaking).
- The road leading up to Artist Point is a short, 2.7-mile-long stretch of highway at the very east end of Mount Baker Highway, State Route 542, in Whatcom County – located just above the Mt. Baker Ski Area lodge.
Artist Point Snowshoe Trail (quick overview)
- Artist Point Snowshoe Trail is considered moderate/difficult
- The trail is 4 miles round trip, 1,000′ of elevation gain
- Allow approximately 4-5 hours to complete
- Snow is virtually guaranteed from November through June
- Dogs must be leashed within the developed recreation area of Heather Meadows
Would I recommend the Artist Point Snowshoe Trail?
The scenery from Artist Point is jaw-dropping, seriously. Mount Shuksan is the star of the show in her best winter regalia as Mount Baker lingers on the skyline to the southwest.
As if though the beauty of these two giants isn’t enough, look in the distance for the regal Cascade Range and sweeping 360-degree views of alpine valleys.
The views were so awe-inspiring that we almost got stranded on the mountain! It was SO hard to leave and we stayed well past sunset, more on that later.
The views from Artist Point will fill any true mountaineer’s heart with glee.
Words of caution
Artist Point is prone to avalanches so avoid hiking next to steep, exposed hills.
- Artist Point Snowshoe Trail goes through avalanche terrain which is best avoided when avalanche risk is considerable. For up to date avalanche reports, rely on this resource before heading out.
Artist Point gets a lot of snow! In fact, it holds the world record for the largest amount of snowfall within a season – 95 feet (1,140 inches).
- If you’re looking for a winter wonderland, this is your spot between November and June. To check for the most current snow reports, click here.
Artist Point Snowshoe Trail is very popular during the winter season.
- We stayed out well past sunset and got lost on our way back because there were tracks going every direction. We suggest heading down the mountain before sunset unless you know your way around.
If there’s rain or fog in the forecast, routing finding skills are essential to traverse this open terrain.
- I recommend postponing the hike unless you are confident in your abilities to be on a mountain during those conditions. Better safe than sorry, my friends.
When to snowshoe Artist Point
Snow is virtually guaranteed from November to June. We decided to snowshoe Artist Point in March and the conditions were perfect!
We’re talking clear skies, comfortable hiking temperatures and beautiful snowy landscapes as far as the eye can see.
Does the road to Artist Point close during winter?
- Some years the road leading to Artist Point closes due to dangerous road conditions. When the road to Artist Point is closed, it is closed just beyond the upper Mt. Baker Ski Area lodge, at milepost 54.7.
Did you know: It costs about $35,000 a year to clear the road to Artist Point? The cost depends on the snowfall, in 2012 is cost $50,000 because of the amount of snow.
Getting to Artist Point Trailhead
- Artist Point Trailhead is at the last parking area on Mount Baker Highway, just southwest of the Heather Meadows day lodge.
- When you reach Heather Meadows, continue down the one-way road around Picture Lake and the ski lifts. (Restrooms available at the trailhead.)
Artist Point Snowshoe Trail
Artist Point Snowshoe Trail departs from the Mt. Baker Ski Area parking lot and follows a groomed trail up a ski-boundary.
From the trailhead, continue up the groomed trail for a half-mile and then head uphill toward Austin Pass. The snowshoe trail climbs steadily from this point onward.
You will notice beautiful rolling hills and cabins peppered throughout the snow. Heads up: the ascent is challenging but the sweeping views are a great distraction.
As you continue up the snowshoe trail, you will start to notice mountain ranges in the distance, but Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker will remain obstructed for a while.
Around 1.5 miles into the hike the trail will lead to the final ascent toward Artist Point.
Approaching the final push up the steep hill, you will notice Mt. Baker’s signature peak.
The anticipation of the summit (hey, this hike is steep!) and the view of the Mt. Baker may literally stop you in your tracks. It’s quite the sight to behold.
Look to either side and you will see 360-degree panoramic views of the Cascade Range as far as the eye can see.
My husband was on a mission to ascend further uphill to catch sunset from the top so we continued uphill an extra mile to reach Huntoon Point for a higher vantage.
We had a quick snack as the temperature dipped and the sun followed suit. We were freezing within minutes and all the chicken dancing in the world couldn’t save us.
We knew it was time to pack up and head down to the warmth of the car. The only challenge? We didn’t take the popularity of this trail into consideration and lost our way back.
We tried to re-trace our steps, but it was challenging in the dark. We would confidently go left only to realize we should have gone right. Quickly ascend a steep hill only to realize we should have gone down. It was exhausting (but also a bit exhilarating).
We eventually found our way back to the groomed ski-trail, but only after sliding down some steep hills on our bums. Needless to say, I slept like a rock that night – completely exhausted from the elevation and the thrill.
Highlight from Artist Point Snowshoe Trail
My favorite part of the hike was experiencing blue hour in the mountains for the first time. Blue hour is the fleeting light between golden hour and nautical hour.
During blue hour, the sky is painted in a deep shade of dark blue and the colors in the sky are more saturated. Experiencing this is absolutely addicting, both Will and I were astonished.
There is something wholly awesome about being on a mountain after sunset. It’s hard to think of something more beautiful.
It goes without saying that Artist Point is an excellent winter destination. It tops my list of best winter snowshoe trails in Washington.
If I may be so bold – the views from Artist Point are the second most beautiful views I’ve seen in my life – a close second to the Dolomites in Italy.
I hope you have the opportunity to snowshoe Artist Point for yourself. It’s the experience of a lifetime!
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Until next time,
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Cathy H says
Yes, our mountains up here are gems, and all the forests, waterways, and sensitive alpine ecosystems they cradle and feed with their glaciers. In recent decades however I have watched some of these glaciers shrink alarmingly, and the hosts of people flocking here since our wonderland has rocketed in popularity are bringing lots of carbon emissions, litter, and trampling with them. Be knowledgeable and respectful if you come folks, and consider enjoying photos instead of an actual visit. I definitely encourage limiting or refraining entirely from posting on social media. The sad irony is that the more folks come to see it, the more endangered and limited the experience becomes. It breaks my heart.
Antonina Pattiz says
I couldn’t agree more with you — my husband and I have this conversation all the time (the pros and cons of geo-tagging). Our natural wonders are getting more popular (and crowded) by the day and geo-tagging feels like a catch-22 because everyone should be able to access them, but how to we keep these places wild and beautiful for future generations? Geo-tagging exposes (and often times exploits) these stunning and fragile areas, but without geo-tagging, it almost feels like these places are only for people “in the know.”
I don’t have an answer on this one — I’m very conflicted. But I will say this: I appreciate your kind and knowledgeable approach, it seems like you are very passionate about conserving these natural areas and are open to having a real conversation about this subject, as opposed to strictly scolding those that see things differently. Reading a comment like yours is so very refreshing, I can’t thank you enough for your honest (and kind) feedback!