Springtime in the Northwest means melting snow in the mountains, streams rushing with cold, clear water and showery days warmed by the occasional sun break. Trees sprout new leaves, flowers appear and the days grow noticeably longer. For families with children of any age, it's a time to reconnect with nature, to truly appreciate the beauty of the region we call home.
Artist Point, a scenic overlook at the east end of the Mount Baker Highway, is a signature summer gathering spot. It's inaccessible by car for most of the year because the road is covered with snow near the Mount Baker Ski Area's Heather Meadows Lodge. Plows begin clearing the road in spring, with an opening date that's usually in July.
Many visitors bring sleds and sliders, and others whoosh around on their feet or bottoms, toss slushy snowballs, create snow sculptures, or simply marvel at the walls of snow and ice -- sometimes 25 feet high -- that tower over the parking area. The vault toilets remained covered in snow until late summer last year, with a trench cut through ice and snow to make them accessible.
The 5,140-foot site is a starting point for several enjoyable day hikes, but some of those trails remain snow-covered and sometimes treacherous into August. Still, it's a blast to frolic in the snow - wearing only shorts and a T-shirt if the weather's nice. It offers a stunning panoramic vista that includes both Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan.
Parking at Artist Point requires a $5 day pass or a $30 annual Northwest Forest Pass, both of which are available at the Glacier Public Service Center, around milepost 34 east of Glacier on the Mount Baker Highway. The staffed ranger station also offers current information on weather and trail conditions. Its hours are seasonal; search online for "Glacier Public Service Center." Call 360-599-2714 for more information.
The Glacier station has clean restrooms with soap and water, making it an easy stop for families with children. Inside the ranger station, there's an impressive relief map of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, some natural history exhibits and a small gift shop. Outside is an 8-foot cross-section of a Douglas fir that was 730 years old when it was felled.
Just below Artist Point, a site worth a stop is the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, which was built in 1940 as a warming hut for skiers. It is restored to its original condition and features a staff of knowledgeable volunteers, a selection of maps and literature, current trail reports and a small gift shop. Several easy and scenic trails start near Heather Meadows.
Suggest your ideas for family-friendly events or day trips to Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or email@example.com. Read more Bellingham Families news online at BellinghamFamilies.com or on Facebook at Bellingham Families.