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WA - Hwy 542 - Mt. Baker Hwy

Discussion in 'Ride Reports' started by eric, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. eric

    eric Slow Eric

    Highway 542 - Mt. Baker Highway
    by Eric Anderson

    The Road

    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.

    Getting 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.

    Alternate Routes

    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
    133 miles

    Hwy 9/542 junction to Heather Meadows
    40 miles

    Bellingham to Heather Meadows
    56 miles

    More Photos


    The views around Mt. Baker
    are impossible to beat.​

    Google Earth Image​


    The road leading to Artist Point

    ken likes this.
  2. Oly ZX

    Oly ZX Daytime Adventure Seeker

    Nice review. :thumbrig: and great job! Hope we can get up there again soon.

  3. Djoplin

    Djoplin Investigates Alternative Destinations

    Be very very careful when those signs say 15mph....:shock: 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..:mrgreen:

    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..
  4. Big "High Five" for this review . :) Awesome ride for sure.
  5. greenr6

    greenr6 At Banned Camp

    its an awesome snowboarding place too;)
  6. Im plannin a trip to Mt. Baker based of "Eric's Roads"
    Good Job Eric (Ur Special now)
  7. Excellent review! This makes me sad I haven't ridden this road previously...gonna have to go up there this season for sure, now 8)
  8. i still have yet to make my way up there this year. One of my favorite rides for shure!
  9. gixxerjeff

    gixxerjeff emw2k9 beer pong champions

    the top most/better part is currently covered in a lot of snow
  10. woooooooot... those are super sweet roads
  11. 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.:notworth:
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. [​IMG]
    And then I ate it big time.....:banghead:
  15. Nice write up Eric. hope to ride it sometime.
  16. liv4thekill

    liv4thekill Mr. Lexus

    Dude, you LIVE in Bellingham & haven't ridden 542? I live in Redmond and make it up 6+ times a season :evil4:
  17. 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. :thefinge: Not that I know first hand about this. :roll:
  18. gixxerjeff

    gixxerjeff emw2k9 beer pong champions

    he led us up on the night time ride for the sunrise pictures
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