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When might stretch of road to Artist Point open for hikers and campers?

Road crews get first look at Artist Point in spring 2017

Road crews strapped on snowshoes Wednesday, April 12 to check depths at the end of Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) at Artist Point, a popular summer destination that typically is accessible by vehicle only from June to September. They found at least
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Road crews strapped on snowshoes Wednesday, April 12 to check depths at the end of Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) at Artist Point, a popular summer destination that typically is accessible by vehicle only from June to September. They found at least

Crews have started to clear the last 2.7-mile stretch of scenic Mount Baker Highway to Artist Point but can’t yet say when they’ll be able to open the road because there’s still so much snow.

More than 40 feet of snow remain on many parts of the highway, including the road’s end in the Artist Point parking lot.

“It’s quite a bit of snow this year compared to most years,” said Andrea Petrich, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

That means campers and hikers itching to access the area’s forested mountain beauty will have to be patient.

“People are calling. They want to get up there. It’s a beautiful stretch of our state. We know there’s a lot of people who have that area on their to-do list each year,” she said Thursday. “We’ll have a date for them as soon as we can.”

Crews are using three bulldozers and a massive snow blower to help clear the highway – and will work seven days a week since receiving the all-clear from their avalanche technician on Wednesday.

Artist Point Gate
More than 40 feet of snow still sit on top of some areas of Mount Baker Highway as Washington State Department of Transportation crews start clearing the last 2.7 miles of the road up to Artist Point, a jumping-off spot for alpine hikes. Washington State Department of Transportation Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The road to Artist Point is usually open from mid- to late July until the first substantial snowfall of the year in late September or early October.

It opened for the summer hiking season on June 23 last year – one of the earlier opening dates because there was less snow than usual.

It closed for the season Oct. 14.

More than 5,000 feet above sea level, Artist Point is a popular viewpoint with 360-degree views that include Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker. It’s also the jumping off point for stunning mountain hikes.

Artist Point Work
More than 40 feet of snow still sit on top of some areas of Mount Baker Highway as Washington State Department of Transportation crews start plowing the last 2.7 miles of the road up to Artist Point, a jumping-off spot for stunning mountain hikes. This photo shows crews working on Tuesday, June 6. Washington State Department of Transportation Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Nearly 12,000 visitors stop by the Heather Meadows Visitors Center, at milepost 55 on the highway each year, an average of 150 a day during the short time that part of the road is open.

Track the road-clearing progress at wsdot.wa.gov/Northwest/Baker/ArtistPoint.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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