If the calendar and Monday’s gloomy skies and rain didn’t give it away already, summer is now officially over.
The final 2.7 miles of the Mount Baker Highway between the Mt. Baker Ski Area and Artist Point has been closed for the winter, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced in a press release Monday, Oct. 7.
The gate above Heather Meadows will remain closed until the road reopens next year.
WSDOT crews remove snow and ice along the Mount Baker Highway year-round, but the last stretch, known as the Road to Artist Point, is narrow, has sharp curves and steep slopes, making it unsafe to keep that portion of the road open year-round.
The Road to Artist Point typically closes in October after autumn snow begins to fall.
Oct. 7 is certainly not the earliest the road has closed, as WSDOT said the road has closed in September in 2013, 2009 and 2007 — when the road saw its earliest closure on Sept. 27, 2007.
Once we get into spring 2020 and the snow stops, WSDOT will move more snow removal equipment to the area and start clearing the Road to Artist Point. While the amount and timing of the snowfall determine when the road will reopen, it’s typically not until early July.
The road got an early opening last spring on June 9, according to a WSDOT Facebook post.
Annually, approximately 200,000 people travel the Road to Artist Point when the road is open, according to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Though the road is closed to vehicle traffic for the winter, WSDOT said back county enthusiasts still can access the area on skis, snowshoes and fat bikes — at their own risk. Conditions along the closed highway can be found at the Northwest Avalanche Center and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.