After a lengthy pandemic-induced (?) hiatus from mountain rides, I’ve finally felt the motivation and inspiration to get after it again.
The objective was Artist Point, which I consider to be the best mountain ride in Washington. With a well-matched cycling buddy, the entire day was an injection of positivity for body and mind.
I’ve done this ride quite a number of times, including an out-and-back from Bellingham with several 13-mile long repeats from the Nooksack River to the top, and the Mt. Baker Hill Climb. Another memorable version was a 100-miler starting from Everson.
This time around we started from Glacier which I hadn’t done in over a decade. In recent years we’ve started from Maple Falls (~62 miles RT) or Kendall (~69 miles RT) to get the extra miles. The Glacier start is all about the climb and descent, condensed into 47 tidy miles.
The drive from Seattle to Glacier is 2+ hours. We parked at the Glacier Ranger Station, but there is also parking behind the small park and Graham’s Market on the south side of Hwy 542 in Glacier proper. There is toilet with water at the Station, and a vault toilet at the Glacier park.
Since the temperature was forecast to be over 90, we rode with hydration packs assuming we wouldn’t be able to find water, and that we’d need it most going uphill. I drank 2 liters during the ride.
There are vault toilets and drinking water at Silver Fir Campground south of the Nooksack River bridge.
The first 13 miles from Glacier to the Nooksack River Bridge trend uphill with a few short descents and steeper ramps.
Once you cross the Nooksack river it’s up, up, and away to Artist Point.
Within a mile of the Nooksack there are teaser glimpses of 7,191′ Mount Sefrit and spectacular 9,131′ Mt Shuksan. Even though the long uphill grind feels tedious, the stunning views help the mind stay motivated.
Mid-way I felt cramping in my legs, and tightness in my lower back. I played around with some different positions with my hands and butt on the saddle. By the time I got to the lower ski area I had completely forgotten about those pains.
Treeline coincides with Picture Lake, which is probably the most popular mountain photo location in the lower 48.
At Heather Meadows, the view is stunning in every direction.
Above Heather Meadows, there are several steep hairpins that make for an impeccable setting on the bike.
As you approach the summit, take in the views. It’s inspiring to see other cyclists churning their way to the top, whether above or below you.
When you get to the Artist Point parking lot, it’s worth a spin around to get a view of Mt Baker to the south. There is a vault toilet at the parking lot.
With a steep grade, lots of hairpins, and a chunky, potholed road surface, the descent from Artist Point to well below the ski area is quite technical. Pay attention. During a previous ride I had a serious crash when my front wheel dropped into a deep pothole and I was catapulted off the bike at over 30mph.
As you descend the road quality improves, and it’s a speedy run back to Glacier from the Nooksack River Bridge.
For a post-ride meal, check out the options in Glacier (somewhat seasonal), Bellingham, or Mt Vernon.