If you’ve been meaning to make one last trip to Artist Point this fall, you’ll have to ride your bike or wear a sturdy pair of shoes – the Washington State Department of Transportation closed the final 2.7 miles of Mount Baker Highway to vehicle traffic on Monday.
Concerns over snow and ice in the North Cascades forced crews to close the gate at the Bagley Lakes Trailhead. The road to Artist Point typically opens in July and remains open until the first substantial snowfall of the year.
The popular tourist destination opened for the summer hiking season on June 29 and was open for 102 days this year – not the shortest opening on record (81 days in 2008) and better than 2011, when the road was not opened at all due to heavy snowfall.
The North Cascades got a dusting this weekend as the snow level dropped to 4,000 feet and temperatures were in the mid 20s in some areas.
The road to Artist Point remains accessible to hikers, bikers, skiers and snowboarders. Adventurers who use the highway past the closed gate do so at their own risk, WSDOT said.
Crews will continue to clear snow up to Mt. Baker Ski Area, which uses a portion of the closed area for ski and snowboard terrain, but keeping the final stretch clear is unsafe to travelers and work crews and “would not be a cost-effective use of WSDOT’s maintenance budget,” the agency said.