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Mt Baker Highway (out and back summit)


This is one of the great north western volcano cycling climbs. Comparing this road with other volcano climbs in the northwest, the special thing here is, that the end of the road is also located well within the North Cascades. This volcano is surrounded by other glaciated peaks like a cutlery gallery. The whole scene makes a more alpine impression than the other high, coastal volcanoes.

Mt Baker Hiway was conceived with the idea to advertise Mt Baker to tourists. The road does not actually go to it, but to a scenic highpoint, named Point Honfoon, very roughly equidistant between the 10781ft high Mt Baker and also the 7191ft high Mt Sefrit.

Generally I group out and back summits with the closest two way summit ( that is a summit with a least two separate approaches ). But in this case, that is impossible. There are none around. Generally speaking, when riding paved roads in central and western Washington, it is nearly impossible to come up with loop rides over high passes or summits anyway, even on the two way summits, at least not for rides in my limited distance range. So I might as well get used to the idea of "out and back" rides, and also to the idea of a page about an out and back summit.

1.(00.0m,0640ft)START WEST: Maple Falls, jct Mt Baker Hiway - Silver Lake Rd
2.(08.6m,1040ft)jct with Glacier Creek Rd on right
3.(09.7m,1080ft)jct with Canyon Creek Rd on left
4.(20.8m,2030ft)jct with FR32 on left
5.(28.2m,4100ft)Picture Lake
6.(31.7m,5080ft)END EAST: end of Mt Baker rd


Approaches

From East.
The slope on the climb between Maple Falls and Glacier is barely noticeable. The "town" Glacier is easy to miss too, barely a handful of buildings, grouped around an intersection, unless there is more hidden in the woods.

The lower part is a rainforest ride. With the right light the moss turns into a hanging garden, that extends for many miles. Two other paved roads branch off into the green carpet: East Glacier Creek Road, just past the town of Glacier and FR31 towards Canyon Ridge.

The forest ride is a nice contemplative introduction for the interesting views to come, on the last 5 miles. The first time the road breaks out onto a grand view, you notice a picturesquely placed hotel of sorts near the road below. Funny - I never noticed it riding up. It turns out to be a ski lodge, just far enough up a (in summer) closed ski access road.

In Washington parking anywhere close to an interesting looking mountain will often cost dearly in parking fees. Luckily even here, bicycling in scenic locations is still free - what a bargain.

At "Picture Lake" the road divides for a short distance, one direction on each side of the lake. Names like "Picture Lake" are common in American tourist landscapes. They act as kind of promotional suggestions on what self respecting tourists should do here. And the name fits well. When it is calm (which it often is), snow covered Mt Sefrit gives off a striking crystal clear reflection in its water. A trail around the lake is paved and I carefully rolled along it with my bike.

Just up the road is Austin Pass. This is not a pass as far as the road is concerned. But a hiking trail leads down into a small alpine basin. Around the next turn, Mt Baker makes its first appearance. So much snow and ice in August - hard to conceive after all these hot weeks. The day I am up here the haze from forest fires is manageable. It gives the mountain an even more foreshortened appearance than during blazing sunlight.

One more turn and the road ends at a parking lot, deserving of a football stadium, almost as large as the one a small distance back at Austin Pass. The crowds frolic in the snow, and family members direct each other on how to pose in the photographs. The crowds here seem more exuberant than on the top of pass roads, maybe because there really is nowhere else to go in their vehicles on this day, except back down to where they came from. The views are spectacular and the National Forest Service often has a tent with people knowledgeable about the local geology, botany, history, who can point you in the right direction to the answer of a question about the universe, including this particular corner.

Descending this same section, the valley below seems to approach quickly, just 2.3 thousand feet. The proportions of the landscape above is much larger, than the part that was actually climbed by the road. That seems to be typical of northwestern volcano rides.



 



Dayride without Two-way summits, and this out and back summit as highest point:

COMPLETELY PAVED:

( < Burpee Hill Rd(sh) | Canyon Ridge Trail s(u) > )
a small distance up East Glacier Road <> down East Glacier Road <> up Mt Baker Hiway with small detour such as viewpoints, parking lots and around Picture Lake << turnaround point Mt Baker Hiway (ows)  <> separate short out and back from starting point a short distance up East Glacier Road << to turnaround point at about 1500ft: 50.3miles with 5300ft of climbing in 4:20hrs (garmin etrex30 r4:17.11).
Notes: lots of company on this apparently very popular cycling climb, some BC smoke refugees, some Wahingtonians, and a Coloradoan.

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow




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