by John D’Onofrio
With winter knocking on the door, it’s time to start thinking about getting the snowshoes down and planning some fun in the snow. The Mount Baker Highway (WA 542) provides convenient access to a number of wonderful and scenic adventures west of the mountain. Here are a half dozen options – all accessed from a 20-mile long stretch of the highway east of Glacier – to whet your powder-hungry appetite. You’ll want to check the snow level before heading out to make sure that there’s enough of the white stuff to play in.
A good resource to check is the snotel site.
And, needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), it’s vital to check the avalanche danger. Easily done here.
Hannegan Road (#32) – Located 13.1 miles east of Glacier and one-half mile before the Salmon Ridge Cross Country Ski Area. There is 3.5 miles of road, and an elevation gain from 2,000′ to 3,100′. The first mile is on an easy grade, then the road steepens for the last two miles. There is an avalanche hazard past 3.5 miles. Not recommended beyond this point. Up to the slide areas, however, Hannegan road provides the easiest and most accessible snow trail in the valley and great views of the Nooksack River and Mt. Shuksan.
Twin Lakes Road (#3065) – Located 12.7 miles east of Glacier at the Shuksan Maintenance Shed. Seven miles long with elevation rising from 2,000′ to 5,200′. Parking is along the side of the road. Do not park in the Maintenance Yard. A steep uphill climb to a magnificent area. The last three miles before Twin Lakes is a frequent avalanche area and should be considered extremely hazardous, and not recommended. The road is closed to snowmobiles.
Glacier Creek Road (#39) – Located 0.7 miles east of Glacier Public Service Center just inside the Forest Boundary and 8.5 miles long (measured from the Thompson Creek Bridge). The elevation rise is from 1,000′ to 4,000′. Park along the roadside at snowline. One avalanche path crosses the road and runs occasionally. The Heliotrope Ridge Trail is closed to snowmobiles. Glacier Creek Road is groomed for snowmobile use and provides early and late season access to good backcountry tours in the Grouse Butte and Heliotrope Ridge areas. In winter, the snowmobile grooming provides great skiing and easy snowshoeing right after it’s been groomed but attracts crowds of machines on the weekends.
Wells Creek Road (#33) – Located 7.1 miles east of Glacier at the Nooksack Falls turnoff. 12 miles long, elevation rise is 1,800′ to 4,600′. Parking is on the Highway or at the falls. The road crosses a frequent avalanche area three miles in at an old burn area. The road is closed to vehicles and snowmobiles at Nooksack Falls from November 1 – July 1, making this a great destination for low elevation solitude and wildlife watching. Snow can be spotty here, but a visit in mid-winter when the snowline is sufficiently low offers great scenery and opportunities for camping.
Deadhorse Road (#37) – Located at the beginning of the Glacier Creek Road (#39), and 14 miles long. The elevation rise is from 1,000′ to 4,000′. Parking is along the side of the road at snow line. Fairly level along the Nooksack River and then a long gradual uphill climb the rest of the way. Trailhead to Skyline Divide is at 13 miles. Skyline Divide is an excellent early season destination offering wide open bowls and great views. The lower sections of Dead Horse can be great snowshoeing and skiing along the river but adequate snow pack at this elevation has been rare in recent years.
White Salmon Road (#3075) – The road begins at a switchback on the Mount Baker Highway, 18 miles east of Glacier. Approximately 2.5 miles with elevation ranging from 3,300′ to 3,000′. Snow comes early and stays late here. Parking is in a small turnout plowed by the state. Do not park on the roadside. This is a short day trip with nice views. The view after one mile is an expansive one of the entire Upper Nooksack Valley and Mount Shuksan. The road heads downhill to a dead end from here.