Located just outside of Bellingham, Mount Baker is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle and it’s perfect for winter sports. While it takes a little longer to get there from Seattle compared other mountains in the area, the drive is well worth it. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And, as one of the snowiest places in the world, going snowshoeing at Mount Baker is a great way to spend a winter day.
If you’ve never been snowshoeing, don’t worry. It’s not that difficult. If you can walk and hike, then you can snowshoe. You also don’t need to own snowshoes to go snowshoeing at Mount Baker. Bellingham is very outdoorsy (as is much of the Pacific Northwest), so it’s not hard to find a place to rent snowshoes. I always rent my snowshoes at Glacier Ski Shop which is located in Glacier (about a half hour from the top of Mount Baker), right along Mount Baker Highway. To get to Mount Baker you have to take (you guessed it) Mount Baker Highway, so it’s easy to stop by and pick up any gear you need as you head up the mountain, and it’s just as easy to drop it off on your way home.
NOTE: A block off of Mount Baker Highway and behind Glacier Ski Shop is an awesome coffee shop called Wake ‘n Bakery (6903 Bourne St.). The coffee is a must and the baked goods are a double must. Plan to stop here for your morning cup of Joe and breakfast treat before your snowshoeing adventure!
Once you have your gear (and your coffee), there are a few different places to go snowshoeing at Mount Baker. One popular spot is White Salmon Creek, which is located about 12 more miles along Mount Baker Highway. All you have to do is take a left into the Salmon Ridge Sno-Park (just past the North Fork Nooksack River Bridge), park in the parking lot and head on out. Note that you will need a Sno-Park permit to park there. You can buy a permit online.
White Salmon Creek is fairly easy and is great for beginners and families. You can hike around for an hour or two, or walk along the nearby river for a day long trek. For better trail details, check out this Washington Trails Association (WTA) article.
If you continue past the Salmon Ridge Sno-Park a few more miles, you’ll end up at the Mount Baker Ski Area. While there are a lot of people who visit the ski area to snowboard, ski and tube, there are plenty of people who also snowshoe. My family likes to park in the upper parking lot (this is the second parking lot you’ll come across). You don’t need a parking permit, but you will need more experience and the correct equipment to go into the backcountry.
On a recent trip, my parents and I hiked on the western edge of the ski trails and dipped into the backcountry as we approached the top of chair two. The views are out of this world. You can see Mount Baker, Shuksan and the Cascades. On a Blue Bird Day it’s like heaven (for those of you who don’t know winter sports lingo, a “Bluebird Day” is a beautiful sunny day after an overnight snowfall).
Another option is to go on a free guided snowshoe walk with a Forest Ranger through the Mount Baker Ranger District. The walks are offered January-March and reservations are required. The Forest Rangers will tell you all about the local winter ecology. No snowshoe experience is necessary. Plus, they provide snowshoes for you to use. It’s a great way to go snowshoeing at Mount Baker. The guided tours will take you along Hannegan Road, Heather Meadows or another area within the Mount Baker district. Visit their website for more information on the tours.
No matter where you end up going, it’s always a good idea to be safe when you go snowshoeing at Mount Baker (or anywhere for that matter). Make sure you check the weather and avalanche conditions before you go. It’s also really important to have the right equipment with you when you trek out into the snow, especially the backcountry. I don’t recommend going into the backcountry unless you have experience and the weather is in good standing. The WTA has a lot of really great resources, including snowshoeing safety tips.
Have you ever gone snowshoeing at Mount Baker? What did you think? We would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more fun things to do around the Pacific Northwest.