Artist Point, on the north side of Mt. Baker, is one of Washington’s most incredible destinations. With half a dozen trips under my belt to this stunning location, Artist Point offers something for everyone.
If you’re looking for great hiking or backpacking, you’ll be in heaven. If you simply want to go sightseeing and enjoy magical views but not hike too much, you can do that too.
Ultimate Guide to Artist Point in Washington
Overall, Artist Point offers some of the best bang-for-your-buck views in all of Washington state. You’re in for a real treat when you visit this area!
What you need to know before you go
Is visiting Artist Point worth it?
Might as well get this one out of the way first. Yes, you should 100% visit Artist Point. It’s an adventurer’s dream location, and you’ll have loads of fun and excellent hiking opportunities.
Plus, if you’re into photography, it’s a sea of gems and you’ll leave with more photos taken than you think was possible!
How to get to Artist Point
Artist Point is one of the furthest drives from Seattle but one of the most beautiful. Sitting on the northeast side of Mount Baker, it’s a 3.25-hour drive from the Seattle metro area.
What makes it slow is once you get off the highway at Bellingham or Sedro-Wooley (there are multiple routes), the rest of the drive consists of single-lane winding roads that take a while to drive.
Getting a place or campground in Bellingham, Maple Falls, or Glacier will shorten the drive and make for a more enjoyable experience.
Snow lasts well in June
As one of the snowiest places in the United States, the Mt. Baker area sees heavy snow amounts well into June. So, even though they have plows and heavy machinery, the National Forest personnel start the snow removal process in mid-June each year.
In 2023, the road opened up just before the 4th of July weekend. In previous years, the road to Artist Point didn’t open until mid-July.
In all, this means keeping expectations level if you consider visiting Washington in June. Odds are, even though it is ‘summer’ to most of the country, the PNW summer doesn’t hit until July 4. (Or that’s the saying up here.)
Road to Artist Point Open Seasonally
Adding onto the above, the road to Artist Point, around two miles long, is usually only open from July through October. However, the road to the Mount Baker Ski Resort is open year-round. (Weather dependent.)
But, from November through April, you must carry chains while driving up to the ski resort, no matter what type of car/SUV you have.
What pass do you need for Artist Point?
To go hiking and backpacking in the North Cascades near Mt. Baker, you need the America The Beautiful Pass or the Northwest Forest Pass, which accounts for recreation on federal lands.
Can you sleep overnight at Artist Point?
During the summer months, there is no overnight camping in the Artist Point parking lot or anywhere in the Heather Meadows recreation area. You are allowed to park your car overnight for backpacking, though.
You also cannot pitch a tent at Huntoon Point as it is too close/popular of a location.
In the wintertime, though, you can go winter tent camping at Artist Point. This requires a two-mile snowshoe approach.
The best time to visit Artist Point
While it’s lovely in winter, the easy answer is summertime.
You can access endless miles of hiking in the North Cascades and around Mount Baker. It’s genuinely some of the most stunning terrain you can find, and I guarantee you will not run out of things to do.
You can expect temperatures hovering around 75 degrees, with daylight lasting until 9:45pm or later. It’s simply remarkable!
However, this also means there are plenty of crowds and people adventuring. So, be prepared for a lot of hikers on the trails, especially Chain Lakes Loop and Lake Ann.
Visiting Artist Point in the Summer
Long summer days with perfect weather make this area the place to be when you visit the PNW. Don’t leave Washington without spending a day up here and embracing the glorious mountains, lakes, and views.
Pros: Endless views and hiking opportunities
Cons: Very crowded, not a lot of privacy in the classic destinations, some bugs
Visiting Artist Point for Fall Colors
This area of the North Cascades lights up with fall colors. It’s majestic. This region is known for its bushes turning a deep red, which glows when backlit by the sun. With the rugged peaks in the backdrop, it’s mesmerizing.
Pros: Incredible fall colors, weather is still great
Cons: Very crowded on the weekends
Winter and snowshoeing at Artist Point
I’ve now had the chance to experience snowy conditions three times, and it has been so cool. It is a relatively moderate snowshoeing experience to the top that should take you about 90 minutes or so.
Make sure to bring plenty of warm gear, and if you plan to camp overnight, take a look at my guide.
While Artist Point might be harder to reach for some, you can also go snowboarding and skiing at Mt. Baker Ski Resort. It’s one of the last family-owned operations in the PNW and offers great adventures. It’s less crowded due to the far drive from Seattle, and it is not on any of the Ikon/Epic passes.
Pros: Less crowded, and snowshoeing up here is like being in a snowglobe
Cons: Days are short, which is hard when it’s a six-hour round-trip drive from Seattle
What to know about Snowshoeing to Artist Point:
- About 4 miles round trip
- Begin by hugging the ski boundary rope; you’ll lose it after a quarter mile or so
- Then you have a very steep section right along the ski line rope
- After this, you’re in the “backcountry.” You’ll have tons of footprints to follow, so you can’t really get lost
- Download the trail to your phone so you have it in case the weather gets cruddy and visibility drops
- Trail is moderate in difficulty with the steep section being the hardest part
Hiking near Artist Point
The following are the top trails/hikes/viewpoints in this region.
- Chain Lakes Loop: 6.5 miles, moderate
- Lake Ann: 8.5 miles, hard
- Ptarmigan Ridge: 12 miles, hard
- Table Mountain: 3 miles, moderate
- Huntoon Point: 1.5 miles, easy
- Bagley Lakes Loop: 2.2 miles, easy
- Picture Lake: short walk, easy
Photos of Artist Point and the North Cascades & Mount Baker Area
Enjoy some more of my favorite photos from the great land.
What to bring for photography?
Here’s what I brought or would suggest bringing:
- Canon R5 – Any camera body works, but mirrorless is lighter
- Canon RF 24-105 f/4 – a great all-around lens that gets you a wide angle and some zoom. Consiering that most of your photos will not be in low light, this is a wonderful option.
- Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 – perfect for nailing the wide angles. If you’re bringing a GoPro, not sure if you need this.
- Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 – Second most versatile option behind the 24-105.
- Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 – Perfect for wildlife and getting some layers at Aasgard Pass. However, pretty heavy for a day hike.
- GoPro Hero9 – Lightweight and easy to document your trip on. Maybe consider a chest mount.
- Peak Design Clip – The best way to carry your camera on this hike.
What to pack for your hikes
- Trekking Poles
- Sunshirts: Men’s and Women’s
- Midsized day pack or running vest
- Water filter
- Wide-brimmed hat
- First aid
- Satellite Device
- Comfy yet durable pants: Men’s and Women’s
- Rain jacket: Men’s and Women’s
- Wool Socks: Men’s and Women’s
- Sturdy Hiking Shoes: Men’s and Women’s
FAQ: Artist Point Guide
When does the road usually open to Washington’s Artist Point?
That’s a great question. The road to Artist Point usually opens in late June or early July. The road is on the north face of the ridge, which is why it holds snow longer than other places, such as Paradise at Mt. Rainier, which is a south-facing slope.
Do I need chains when driving to Artist Point in the winter?
Yes, all vehicles must carry chains when driving to the Mount Baker Ski Resort. It does not matter what type of vehicle you drive. This is due to the large amounts of snow that can fall in this region, and having chains can help keep you safe as you drive down the steep, winding roads.
Can you pitch a tent at Artist Point?
You cannot pitch a tent at Artist Point during the summer months. In the winter, though, you can if you snowshoe up to the top. This is a four-mile roundtrip trip hike.
Is there drinking water?
There is no running water at Artist Point. Please bring all the drinking water you need for your hiking trip. Additionally, there are bathrooms, but there are no flush toilets.
What is Mount Baker’s native name?
While Mount Baker got its name from European discoverers, its original name from the indigenous tribes is Koma Kulshan. This means “Great White Watcher.”
This most likely stems from how much snow Mount Baker receives – it’s one of the snowiest places on Earth – and is the second most glaciated peak in the PNW behind Mt. Rainier (Tahom).
Are drones allowed at Artist Point?
Drones are allowed at Artist Point, but please be careful and respectful when flying in densely populated areas. The safety of others should be the most essential thing to consider.
While they are allowed at the parking lot and on the road going up, they are not permitted in the Mt. Baker Wilderness, which is where most of the Chain Lakes Loop Trail is. (See darker green area below.)
Final Thoughts on Visiting Artist Point in Washington
In conclusion, a trip to Artist Point in Washington is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers and art enthusiasts. The breathtaking scenery, with its jagged peaks, vibrant wildflowers, and cascading waterfalls, is truly awe-inspiring.
Additionally, the opportunity to witness Mount Baker up close and personal provides a sense of grandeur that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Whether one chooses to embark on a challenging hike or simply take in the beauty from a viewpoint, Artist Point offers something for everyone.
It is undoubtedly a hidden gem that showcases the incredible beauty of Washington’s natural landscape and inspires artists of all kinds. A visit to Artist Point will leave visitors with lasting memories and an appreciation for the remarkable wonders found in nature.
Until next time, adventurers, stay safe!