Artist Point is an interesting location, it’s only open a few months of the year when it’s not buried in tens of feet of snow. I’ve been meaning to head back up to the North Cascades but it’s always been a decision between a < 2 hour drive to Mt. Ranier versus 3+ hours to the Cascades. I did make it Diablo Lake a few weeks ago, but the weather and conditions weren’t too great. So the past weekend I finally decided to head up to Artist Point and Picture Lake. The drive isn’t particularly interesting, from Seattle it’s mostly highway and isolated back roads. You’ll get some glimpses of the Cascades range through the trees though.

I would consider both Artist Point and Picture Lake to be part of the “Mount Baker” ski area, they are close to each other, within 5 minutes drive. Anyways, you’ll pass by Picture Lake first. Picture Lake is right off the road, which makes it a very popular location. Apparently Mount Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in North America.. with Picture Lake being one of the more popular spots. The sun was high in the sky when I arrived – I would return later for sunset.

Picture Lake during the day.
Picture Lake during the day.

Heading up to Artist Point there are a few pullouts that give you some nice panoramic vantage points of the surrounding mountains. Looking across the valley you’ll see Goat Mountain as well, which I backpacked at a few weeks ago! You’ll shortly reach the parking lot of Artist Point. There’s a bunch of trails that start here, so be sure to check out some trail maps beforehand to decide what to do.

If you want a good feel for the area, I would recommend a short 1.1 mile loop called Huntoon Point via Artist Ridge. This is a short trail to the east of the parking lot that gives you panoramic views of Mount Shuksan, the surrounding Cascades, as well as various tarns and rock formations that make for good photos.

Huntoon Point Trail Map

Easily graded trail with wide paved areas for most of Huntoon Point.
Easily graded trail with wide paved areas for most of Huntoon Point.

For most of the short trail there are breathtaking views all around. Looking behind – you see the odd looking Table Mountain with the Chain Lakes trail running below it. Look ahead and you’ll see Mount Shuksan looming in the distance. Look North and you’ll see the rest of the Cascades, Hannigan Peak, Goat Mountain, the ski area, and much more. I’ll leave it to some snaps I took along the way to give you a better idea.

Table Mountain with the Chain Lakes trail below it
Table Mountain with the Chain Lakes trail below it
Mount Shuksan reflected on an almost still mountain tarn
Mount Shuksan reflected on an almost still mountain tarn
With everything going on around you, it's easy to forget about Mount Baker looming to the south
With everything going on around you, it’s easy to forget about Mount Baker looming to the south

After finishing up on Huntoon Ridge, I headed over to check out Table Mountain. From the distance it looks interestingly flat at the top. The trail is a moderate 4 mile, 1500′ elevation hike that takes you straight up to the ridge of the mountain before flattening out. Unless you’re here late in the season, there’s likely some snow covering the trail – so just be cautious of that. Table Mountain is one of those hikes where you can walk as far as you want and turn back whenever you like. Once you get to the top, feel free to explore along the ridge and look out both ways. Some view points are slightly obstructed by trees – but I found the views to be quite nice.

View of Mt Baker from Table Mountain
View of Mt Baker from Table Mountain
Telephoto shot of Mt Baker from Table Mountain
Telephoto shot of Mt Baker from Table Mountain
Panoramic of the north side of table mountain
Panoramic of the north side of table mountain

After the hike I headed down to Picture Lake to shoot sunset. Unfortunately the light didn’t turn out that night – the sky was 100% clear for the entire day which would be great for stars.. but the moon was also out. I did end up getting a couple cool shots though.

Bright moon looms over artist point
Bright moon looms over artist point
Milky Way Over Mount Baker
Milky Way Over Mount Baker

These two shots were on a new lens I just recently purchased specifically for astro-photography (Rokinon 14mm f2.8). Heard good things about this manual focus lens for stars. I’ve been using the 16-35f4 previously but this may prove to be slightly better. I should have figured out where infinity focus was before hand, but other than that the lens looks to be sharp. I’m not sure how much help 1 stop will be over the 16-35 for noise. For that I may need a star tracker or faster lens.

Milky Way over Mount Baker
Milky Way over Mount Baker

Overall, this was a good trip – I didn’t quite get the shots I was hoping for.. but I came out with enough knowledge of the area to know when and where to come back! I may try a trip in the winter with some snow shoes – seeing the area blanketed in snow may be quite the sight. Like always, hope you enjoyed the shots and the tips!

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