150 – Ptarmigan Ridge

This was truly a bonus hike! We wanted to hike to Ptarmigan Ridge last year, but snows came early, then melted away, and our schedules allowed us but one more day of high country hiking. We chose to hike to Lake Ann that day (go here – Hike #83 – Lake Ann – to read about that hike). That was a lovely hike, and I certainly have no regrets about having spent the day along the trail to Lake Ann. But, as we were getting back into our car at the trailhead at the very end of our hike that day, one of Kent’s old friends drove by and stopped to chat once he recognized us. He shared that he had just finished the Ptarmigan Ridge hike and how beautiful that hike had been. Snow returned the following week and continued on for the season, making the Ptarmigan Ridge hike impossible – until late this season. Our day started off with gorgeous weather, and even though we were in the middle of prepping for a six-day, five-night backpacking trip deep into the Goat Rocks Wilderness and would be leaving in two days, we decided at almost the last minute that this would be the day we hiked to Ptarmigan Ridge. Laughing, we called this our “warm up hike”. Ten and a half miles later, we were still laughing!

Ptarmigan Ridge trailhead
Ptarmigan Ridge trailhead

This must be one of the most scenic hikes up in the Mount Baker area. Starting at the Artist Point parking lot, the trail is shared with two other very popular hikes – the hike to Table Mountain and the Chain Lakes loop hike. We enjoyed a beautiful hike along the Chain Lakes Loop Trail last year. Go here – Hike #74 – Chain lakes Loop – to check that out. Because the hike to Ptarmigan Ridge is more difficult than the other hikes due to its being longer, having more elevation gain and sometimes lingering snow causes white-out conditions on the ridge, by the time we had passed where those trails turn off, most of the other hikers were gone. The views were incredible. That’s Mount Shuksan as the backdrop in this photo that Kent snapped of me along the trail.

(pic by Kent Doughty) Along the Ptarmigan Trail
(pic by Kent Doughty) Along the Ptarmigan Trail

Millions of years of volcanic action and receeding glaciers have made the geology of this area quite interesting. It’s easy to understand how this pile of rock ended up here.

Explaning how this land was formed
Kent Doughty explans how this land was formed

We love snow fields along our trails as this near heart-shaped snow field confirms.

We love snow fields
We love snow fields

Cairns piled high along the trail bring the attention of passers by to special areas offering stunning views.

(pic by Kent Doughty) Along the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail
(pic by Kent Doughty) Along the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

Often along the trail, the wildflowers were at their beautiful prime.

(pic by Kent Doughty) Wildflowers along the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail
(pic by Kent Doughty) Wildflowers along the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

From this point along the trail, there were only a few more snow fields to pass, a little more elevation to gain, and a mile or so more before we reached Ptarmigan Ridge. I put on my ice trekkers and pulled out my trekking pole to make my going easier.

(pic by Kent Doughty) Rose crossing snow field on the way to Ptarmigan Ridge
(pic by Kent Doughty) Rose crossing snow field on the way to Ptarmigan Ridge

We brought along ice axes hoping for a chance to practice using them and had a great time playing in the snow.

Ice ax lessons . . .
Kent Doughty demonstrates using the Ice ax . . .

Here’s a shot of Mount Baker as viewed from Ptarmigan Ridge!

Mount Baker from Ptarmigan Ridge
Mount Baker from Ptarmigan Ridge

Carefully placed among the rocks on Ptarmigan Ridge now sits this tribute memorial. Dear Nina, though your days here were short, your memory lives on – and your view from this vantage point goes on for almost ever.

We love you, Nina . . . memorial placed on Ptarmigan Ridge
We love you, Nina . . . memorial placed on Ptarmigan Ridge

We took a break once we reached Ptarmigan Ridge and enjoyed the picnic we had packed in – and the beautiful views before turning around to make the hike back to Artist Point.

Back to the parking lot
Kent Doughty heads back to Artist Point

Visit the Washington Trails Association website, here – http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/ptarmigan-ridge – for more information, recent trip reports and directions for the hike to Ptarmigan Ridge.

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