Local Information

Road to Artist Point now closed to vehicle traffic

Monday, October 9, 2017 - 08:48

Andrea E. Petrich, communications, 360-757-5963

Final stretch of SR 542 still accessible on foot, snowshoes

MOUNT BAKER – Sightseers who want to take in fall views from Artist Point this year, will need to go on foot. The scenic road to Artist Point on State Route 542 has closed to vehicle traffic for the rest of the year.

The gate on SR 542 to Artist Point closed for the season on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.

October snow and ice concerns in the North Cascades forced Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews to close the gate at the Bagley Lakes Trailhead. The annual closure of the final 2.7 miles of highway is for the safety of travelers and crews.

Artist Point season, by the numbers
This year's season of 102 days may have seemed quick but it wasn't the shortest season on record.

  • In 2008, the road was open for 81 days.
  • In 2011, there was too much snow to, cost-effectively, open the highway past the Heather Meadows Visitors Center.
  • In 2016, a light winter allowed a May 14 opening. The road remained open for 172 days.
  • In 2017, for the first time, WSDOT crews worked seven days a week to open on Thursday, June 29.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest says nearly 12,000 people stopped by their Heather Meadows visitor center in 2017. That does not include travelers who went directly to Artist Point or visited during off-peak hours.

Fall and winter access to Artist Point
The area remains accessible to hikers, bikers, skiers and snowboarders but vehicle traffic will not be able to travel beyond the gate at milepost 54.55. Adventurers who use the highway past the closed gate, do so at their own risk.

During the winter, Mount Baker Ski Area uses a portion of the closed area for ski and snowboard terrain. WSDOT maintenance crews will clear snow from SR 542/Mount Baker highway up to the ski area. The final stretch of highway to Artist Point is nearly a mile above sea level with narrow lanes and sharp turns. Clearing the road each year would be unsafe for crews and travelers and would not be a cost-effective use of WSDOT's maintenance budget.

When will the closed section reopen?
WSDOT maintenance crews will assess the area next spring. A reopening timeline will depend on the amount of snow that falls this winter as well as spring weather conditions.

Artist Point will be back next year with another opportunity to see the views that bring thousands of people to this stretch, during an average of 97 days each year.

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