|04-13-2007, 07:50 AM||#1|
Joined: Mar 2006
Blog Entries: 6
I Ride: Street: Bike #1 Track: Bike #2
WA - Hwy 542 - Mt. Baker Hwy
Highway 542 - Mt. Baker Highway
by Eric Anderson
Mt. Baker Highway is a "must-ride" for anyone who can find a way to get there. The road is in fantastic shape, the corners get tighter and more fun as make your way up. Throw in the stunning views of the North Cascades and you have a recipe for one of the best roads in the state.
Highway 542 begins in Bellingham but the part you are looking for starts at the East junction of 542 and hwy 9 near the Nooksack River Casino. Four or five miles of slowly winding road will bring you to a couple of 90 degree corners to get you warmed up for the ride. Veer right after the corners to stay on 542 and take it easy passing through Maple Falls. You'll hit a few fun and fast sweepers before coming up on the last two small towns Wamick and Glacier. Once passing Glacier and the nearby ranger station, it's time to have fun with nothing but an increasing twisty road to slow you down.
Past Glacier is about 20 miles of the some of the best stretch of twisties in the state. The first half is filled with fast smooth corners with signs recommending speeds between 25 and 45 mph. Law enforcement is generally not to prevalent out here but occasionally there are Border Patrol so keep an eye out. Most of the corners have good visibility with few surprises.
Not to long after passing Glacier you'll see a sign showing twisty roads for the next 11 miles. The road is about to get even better. As you head uphill, open sweepers give way to tighter blind corners. Several of the blind corners go on for a little longer then guess, so concentrate to avoid running wide to the other lane. As you continue uphill the forest turns into rocky cliffs and the road tightens up even more.
Tight, 15mph switchbacks, 20mph s-turns, uphill and downhill, the last 10 miles of the Mt. Baker hwy are tight, technical and an absolute blast. But watch out in the 15mph corners, there is often gravel on the inside of the corners and drivers who can't stay in their lanes.
The main road ends at Heather Meadows. As you arrive the road splits into a one-way as you curve around Picture Lake. Picture Lake is a great place to stop and take photos. If you walk down to the lake you can take pictures as it mirrors Mt. Shuksan in the distance. Getting back on the bike you'll follow the road up to the ski lodge. In the spring time, the ride ends here and it's time for a break before braving the 15mph downhill hairpins. But when the upper mountain begins to thaw (usually June), Artist Point opens up adding a few more miles and even tighter hairpins to the ride.
The trip up Artist Point is well worth it. The views are incredible once you reach the top. Artist point demands caution, more then anywhere else on hwy 542. Many of the corners are even tighter then the 15mph hairpins down below and the road surface is more worn. The corners are also unmarked so it's easy to get suprised by a corner with a decreasing radius when you didn't expect it.
For more on this road, including more photos, maps and downloads, please click here.
From the South you can take hwy 9 all the way to 542 and skip the boring stretch on I-5. Beginning in Arlington, hwy 9 is a decent stretch of road on it's own right with some good corners. If you'd rather get to hwy 542 more quickly, you can take I-5 all the way to exit 230 and get on hwy 20 East for a few miles until you reach hwy 9, head North on hwy 9.
Mt. Baker Hwy is basically and out-and-back route so there aren't a lot of alternative routes to take. There are some great roads in the area to check out. If you have the time hwy 9 is excellent, Mosquito Lake Rd. has some decent twisties and Chuckanut Drive is fun with some beautiful views.
Seattle to Heather Meadows via I-5
Hwy 9/542 junction to Heather Meadows
Bellingham to Heather Meadows
The views around Mt. Baker
are impossible to beat.
Google Earth Image
The road leading to Artist Point
Last edited by eric; 08-24-2007 at 07:37 PM..
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|04-20-2007, 07:15 PM||#3|
Investigates Alternative Destinations
Joined: Jul 2005
I Ride: Faster 2-up than most by themselves
Be very very careful when those signs say 15mph.... Ya, they mean it... The sweepers before are almost as good as Johnston Ridge..
That's zxmurphy's back yard.. Wanna good tour, take him with ya and try to keep up..
Ski season can last late into the spring up there. If you're gonna go up there. Make sure their done cause that can create lots of traffic.. One that I will be doing several times this summer.. It can still be sandy up in the tight stuff til they do the Ski to Sea race in late spring (Blossom time).. They clean the road up just before that..
|05-14-2007, 10:51 AM||#12|
Joined: Apr 2007
From: Bellingham,WA / Puyallup, WA
I Ride: 77 cb750F Cafe, 03 sv650s ever so gently, 98 R1 on the rear wheel.
Great Review. You nailed the trip right on. During the winter one can Rally a 4wd sedan much like one corners a bike... So Ive heard.
|05-14-2007, 07:38 PM||#13|
Joined: Jun 2006
From: Wet Side of the Mountains - E. Tacoma
I Ride: GSXR1000, r1150gsa
Great review. I can't wait to hit this road up sometime this summer. I was always curious where that lake mirroring Mt. Shuksan was. I didn't realize it was so accesible. Thanks for the info.
|05-15-2007, 10:57 AM||#14|
Joined: Apr 2005
From: The Great Northwest
Nice write up Eric , I hope to ride up it on a bike this year some time.
542 is my favorite road in all of WA.
Life would not be as good without a few blasts up and down it a year.
|11-03-2007, 04:37 PM||#18|
Joined: Aug 2005
I Ride: 2013 Panigale aRRRRRRRRRR!
|11-16-2008, 08:45 PM||#19|
Joined: Nov 2008
From: Vancouver BC
Great ride if you are wise enough to slow up when going up the hill (just after crossing the river the last time and as you head along the mountain side) The corners have been fast up till now but now come the tight ones.
Next never lose your key up there or else your friends will need to drive back, call someone who has the spare and you'll need to break into a VW bug and shiver for 3 hours. Not that I know first hand about this.
|11-16-2008, 10:42 PM||#20|
emw2k9 beer pong champions
Joined: Oct 2006
I Ride: 06 gixxer 1000