Highway 542 ends at 5,200-foot Artist Point in Austin Pass, 23 miles east of Glacier, and the only alpine area in the North Cascades accessible by car. The surrounding area—Heather Meadows—delivers incredible vistas, enjoyable picnic sites, and a multitude of hiking trails to explore in late summer. The stone-walled Heather Meadows Visitor Center (10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily July–September), built by the CCC in 1940, offers local information.
Heather Meadows, stuck between Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, has been drawing tourists since the first lodge was built here in 1927 (it burned to the ground four years later). The lakes, meadows, and rock formations surrounded by snowcapped peaks were the setting for Clark Gable’s Call of the Wild and Robert DeNiro’s The Deer Hunter.
The road to Picture Lake is kept plowed all winter, but the last five miles from here to Artist Point close with the first snows—generally mid- to late October—and usually don’t open till late July. Because of the short season, the months of August and September are busy beyond belief, especially on weekends. Try to visit on a weekday instead.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition