Heliotrope Ridge hike near Mt Baker, Washington

Heliotrope Ridge

Mount Baker
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Beginning of the trail on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonSmall waterfall on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonAn early creek crossing on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonCrossing Kulshan Creek on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonKulshan Creek waterfall on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonFirst view of Mount Baker on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonCrossing Heliotrope Creek on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonView north from the creek on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonEnd of hiking a trail near Coleman Glacier on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonMount Baker and Lower Coleman Icefall on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonColeman Glacier on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonPanorama of the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonWildflowers and waterfall on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, WashingtonWildflowers and Mount Baker on the Heliotrope Ridge Hike in Mt Baker, Washington

Heliotrope Ridge

Distance: 9.0km
Elevation: 475m
Time: 3-4h

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This popular hike up Heliotrope Ridge crosses several creeks before reaching a spectacular overlook of Coleman Glacier. Along the way, hikers share the path with mountaineers attempting to summit Mount Baker.

Heliotrope Ridge Hike Map

Getting there

To get to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead, head east from Bellingham on Mount Baker Highway (HWY 542) to milepost 34. 1.6km after passing Glacier Public Center, turn right onto Forest Rd 39. Follow for 12.9km to the parking lot: a Northwest Forest Pass is required here.

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About

When to do

Summer / Fall

Backcountry Campsites

Yes, Harrison Camp, Hogsback Camp

Toilets

Yes, at trailhead

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Out and back


Heliotrope Ridge
Elevation Graph


Heliotrope Ridge Route Description

To begin the Heliotrope Ridge trail, set out east from the parking area, dropping immediately to cross the bridge over Grouse Creek. Tree cover provides shelter from the elements. The trail climbs towards Mount Baker. Reach the first bridge-free creek crossing at 1.6km, rock-hopping your way across carefully.

Then, you’ll climb a set of switchbacks before crossing Kulshan Creek. From here on out you’ll encounter several creeks of varying width, depth, and flow.

The Heliotrope Ridge trail climbs to a flat site where the Kulshan Cabin (built in 1925 by the Mount Baker Club) once stood. At around 3.2km, the former cabin site is now used for camping with a backcountry toilet nearby. Shortly thereafter the trail crosses the West Fork of Heliotrope Creek, then reaches a junction with the Climber’s Trail at 3.9km.

Continue straight to stay on the Heliotrope Ridge Trail. Mount Baker comes into view as you leave the forest behind, crossing the various braids of Heliotrope Creek. It’s easy to lose the trail in this section, so pay close attention. Your destination is a knoll at 4.5km, at the moraine’s edge. Alternatively, you can follow any of the various paths up to the edge of the moraine.

The final climb to the knoll is steep, with loose rocks underfoot. At the top, you can meander up and down the ridge, but take care to stay away from the edge. It’s a long way down!

Once you’ve reached the overlook, peer out over the sea of glacier-blue ice. This is the Lower Coleman Icefall, part of the greater Coleman Glacier. Those giant ice chunks in front of you are called seracs. Often formed by intersecting crevasses, they can be as big as a car – or even a house. Above, Mount Baker stands tall at 3286m. Bastille Ridge is visible across the moraine.

Return the way you came, taking care to watch your footing on the way down from the knoll.

Hiking Trail Highlights

Coleman Glacier

The Coleman Glacier is the largest of the 11 named glaciers that descend from the iconic peak of Mount Baker. With a surface area of approximately 5.2 square kilometers, the Coleman Glacier dominates the western slope of the peak, nestled between the Roosevelt Glacier and the Heliotrope Ridge. Like the other glaciers on Mount Baker, the Coleman Glacier retreated significantly in the period between 1980 and 2006.

The Coleman Glacier is a popular ascent route for climbers seeking to conquer the summit of Mount Baker. This is a challenging and technical climbing route, as many crevasses emerge in the glacier as the season progresses, making it difficult to find an accessible route. For many hikers, it’s enough to gaze upon the majesty of this impressive glacier from the lookout point, where you’ll enjoy a remarkable view over a dazzling sea of bright blue ice.

If you’d like to see more great hikes in Mount Baker, check out the Yellow Aster Butte, Skyline Divide and the Chain Lakes Loop.

Insider Hints

  • Consider a side trip up the Climber’s Trail on the way back for more Coleman Glacier views. The route is steep, climbing about 0.8km to the viewpoint. Hikers should not proceed beyond this point without mountaineering experience, training, and climbing gear.

  • Stay off the glacier at all times.

  • Bring your trekking poles and an extra pair of socks - there’s a good chance you’ll get your feet wet while crossing several creeks along this trail.

  • Visit this trail early in the morning if possible. Creek levels tend to run higher and faster in the afternoon heat, which can make for challenging crossing conditions.

  • The Climber’s Trail is a good alternative for those who feel uncomfortable crossing Heliotrope Creek.

Comments

Papa smurph 2 months ago

Absolutely insane glacier views! Beautiful scenery.

10.0 Overall Rating
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3h 00m Time Taken
E.david 2 months ago

Wonderful views with perfect weather!

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3h 00m Time Taken
Sally S. Norbert 3 months ago

An absolutely gorgeous hike through old growth forest. This hike is well worth doing.

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3h 30m Time Taken
Lambert O 3 months ago

Glacier view is amazing. Gorgeous views

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3h 30m Time Taken
Aleysha C. 3 months ago

The trail is rigorous in a good way. The hike was beautiful. Waterfall and streams are gorgeous.

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4h 00m Time Taken
HIllaryPNW 4 months ago

Wonderful hike, great views at the end! Not a very difficult hike either.

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Meighan 4 months ago

Stunning Coleman Glacier.

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Zoey Mann 6 months ago

Amazing glacier views all around. A perfect snow paradise!

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Charlie T 1 year ago

Amazing views from the overlook. I loved this hike. Brings back great memories.

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HikingFly 1 year ago

nice surroundings, a bit challenging, a lot of life around

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16 Comments Show all

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