Ptarmigan Ridge

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Very Hard
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4-5.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
15.1 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
427 m
User Ratings
These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
Overall Rating
This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
10.0
Physical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Technical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Ptarmigan Ridge hike in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

The wildest trail accessible from Artist Point, Ptarmigan Ridge is a hike for solitude-seekers. In addition to wildflowers, berries, and wildlife-spotting potential, this climbing route offers fantastic close-up views of Mount Baker.

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Route Description for Ptarmigan Ridge

Note: This trail can be dangerous. With steep, rocky slopes and numerous snowfield crossings that linger well into summer. Ptarmigan Ridge is not a safe hike for children or pets. Only experienced hikers should attempt to cross the permanent snowfields, and be very careful, especially when they are icy. Consider having microspikes, poles and/or an ice axe.

Begin along the Chain Lakes trail, which starts at the northwest corner of Artist Point parking area. Follow the Chain Lakes trail for just over a mile, with views of Mount Baker ahead and Mount Shuksan behind.

At 1.8 km, turn left at the signed junction for Ptarmigan Ridge. The trail loses some elevation here. You will skirt beneath Happy Bunny Butte before meandering through some lupine flowers.

Much of the route here is rocky and exposed. Streams trickle from permanent snowfields - a few of which you’ll be crossing.

At 2.7 km, go right at an unsigned junction. The trail begins to climb steadily from here on out. At 3.7 km, reach a vast, boulder-topped viewpoint. This 1,646 m overlook is just the toe of the ridge: a sample of what’s to come. Great views of Mount Shuksan and Table Mountain pair well with a snack here.

Crest the ridge at 4.8 km. Here the trail turns sharply west (stay right). Panoramic views from Shuksan to Baker will dominate your field of view. This is an excellent turnaround point for an abbreviated hike. To continue, follow the trail towards Coleman Pinnacle - rising sharply in front of Mount Baker.

At 6.3 km reach an unsigned junction. The route to the left drops down to the beautiful blue-green Goat Lake, but our trail keeps right. As you stay right, you’ll continue onto Ptarmigan Ridge trail as it rounds beneath Coleman Pinnacle.

You’ll reach a high point of 1,873 m at 6.6 km before dropping into the Camp Kaiser area. Mountain goats can often be seen hanging out on the snowfields below, while pika and marmots call from the rocks.

At 7.6 km, a rocky spine provides a nice turnaround point with a view of Mount Baker and Sholes Glacier. The trail continues to the Portals from here, but only climbers and experienced hikers should follow it further, as route-finding may be necessary. Return the way you came.

Would you like to see more hikes in Mount Baker? Check out the Yellow Aster Butte, Chain Lakes Loop, Skyline Divide Trail or Heliotrope Ridge.

Insider Hints for Ptarmigan Ridge

  • Despite the occasional cobbled together fire ring, no fires are allowed on Ptarmigan Ridge Trail (Mount Baker Wilderness).
  • The snowfields can be dangerous on this hike, especially when they are icy early in the morning. Trekking poles are helpful for stability when crossing the snowfields as are microspikes. As an additional precaution, some hikers bring an ice axe.
  • Bring sunscreen. Burns develop easily here due to open exposure and reflective snowfields.
  • Be sure to carry a map and compass, as weather changes quickly here and can create whiteout conditions. Review our Required Gear and Hike Safety pages for more information.
  • Stop by the North Fork Brewery in Deming for post-hike pints and pizza.

Getting to the Ptarmigan Ridge Trailhead

From Glacier, drive east on Mount Baker Highway to the end of the road at Artist Point parking area. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. The road is closed from fall through to early summer.

Route Information

  • When to do

    August to October

  • Backcountry Campsites

    Yes, at Kaiser Camp

  • Toilets

    Yes, Artist Point trailhead

  • Family friendly

    No

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Ptarmigan Ridge Elevation Graph

Weather Forecast

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Ptarmigan Ridge Reviews

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