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Itching to get to scenic Artist Point for a mountain hike? Here’s some good news

Snow is still piled high along Mount Baker Highway near where crews are clearing the last few miles to Artist Point. The final stretch of SR542 is expected to open June 29.
Snow is still piled high along Mount Baker Highway near where crews are clearing the last few miles to Artist Point. The final stretch of SR542 is expected to open June 29. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The road to Artist Point – and all the mountain beauty it offers – will open for the summer hiking season by June 29, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced Thursday.

Crews working seven days a week to clear snow from the last 2.7 miles of Mount Baker Highway allowed for the opening, which will occur by 5 p.m. next Thursday, to happen sooner than expected.

More than 40 feet of snow remained on many parts of the highway, including the road’s end in the Artist Point parking lot, when workers started the job earlier in June.

“The last time I saw this much snow was in 1999, when we couldn’t even open the road,” said Bill Joyce, WSDOT maintenance supervisor, in a news release. “We had a lot of snow this year too, but the real challenge was the wind, which created drifts more than 70 feet deep in some areas.”

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Snow is still deep in the parking lot at Artist Point as crews clear the last few miles of Mount Baker Highway. The final stretch of SR542 is expected to open June 29. WSDOT Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Crews spent most days working in thick fog, rain and even snow at times to clear that final stretch of the highway, which ends in the parking lot at Artist Point, the agency said, adding that the opening would still be weeks away if not for workers’ long days.

Before they reopen the highway to traffic, workers still need to repair pavement and reinstall road signs that are taken down each season.

While that’s happening, WSDOT is asking back-country recreationists, hikers and bicyclists to not go through the closed gate that’s still over that part of the highway because heavy machinery and vehicles will continue to move through the work zone during the day.

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 a popular jumping off point for stunning mountain hikes.

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.

Stay updated at wsdot.wa.gov/Northwest/Baker/ArtistPoint.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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