Ptarmigan Ridge Trail is a 8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Glacier, WA that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
From Bellingham follow the Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542) east for 57 miles to the road end with the mega parking lot for Artist Point (elev. 5140 ft).
Went on a cloudy day mid August, visibility was crummy and created an eerie feeling the entire trip. Saw ptarmigans, marmots, goats, and one mystery predatory mammal of some sort. Was a decent amount of snow/ice crossing.
Rocky, goat lake along the way is amazing
One of the best hikes in the world. Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan up close and personal through out, along with 360 degree view of the Cascades. 1 inch of snow at the ski area base. Road is closed past the ski area. . Had to park at the upper parking lot of the ski area. I was headed to the "Portals", but the additional time to hike to the artist point parking lot . . I turned around at the base of Coleman Pinnacle. 5 star day on many levels. No one was on the trail. Complete solitude for the entire day. 1-2 feet of powder snow past the junction to Chain Lakes . .if you have been on this trail before, you will easily get to the base of Coleman. Ice axe is advised for one short section. Didn't see any animals, but saw many tracks. I witnessed, for the first time, an iridescent cloud. . .amazing bizarre experience . . I had my polarized sun glasses on which intensified the colors by 5 times. I will post a couple of pictures of it . . No filters, etc.
I combined Ptarmigan Ridge with the Chain Lakes Loop, which made for around 18 miles. The trail was often rocky but well-maintained and not at all strenuous. This late in the year, there are very few snowfields to cross. I got by fine without poles, which are probably a necessity the rest of the year.
It was a warm and sunny Sunday, perhaps the last of the year. I got an early start and so didn't see another soul for hours, the only signs of humanity a chanting drifting through the dawn air and a few tents scattered along the lakeshores. Mount Baker loomed closer and closer, until it looked like you could reach out and touch the summit. When I could no longer find any semblance of trail, I climbed some rocks (sending pikas scurrying and earning a whistle from a startled marmot) to read and watch the hawks spiral up from the valley beneath to far overhead. The views were stupendous, the silence complete except for the occasional crack and groan of ice shifting on the mountain.
On the way back I passed a steady stream of people going in both directions (there must have been an earlier turnaround point). This trail is popular for a reason, but it was still a shock. The bonus on the return journey was running into an actual ptarmigan on Ptarmigan Ridge, which ineffectively tried to flee down the same trail I was walking on.
It was dense fog the whole drive up and drizzling at the trailhead but the temperature was bearable so we went for it anyway. There was only one other little group that we passed at the Chain Lakes junction. Windy drizzly conditions followed by intense bright sun and blue sky. Got caught in a dismal downpour emerging out of the first valley but took shelter for about 20 minutes in a stand of pine which was fortuitously placed where it was. At the rock piles opposite the floe area/lake we stopped for lunch and based on the system that was billowing up and down in the next valley we decided to skip the outlook and explore the lake area. Actually was interesting since there is so much going on geologically. All in all, I'd say a 7 out of 10 given it was so late in the season and we should have known better.
This was a deceptive hike for me. You are totally out in the open for just about the whole hike. Much of it is through fairly barren rocky areas that aren't too exciting for near viewing. BUT -- the reward at the far end of the hike is worth it. You can get a mountain top experience with 360-degree views. Based on the trail map, I'm not sure I actually made it to the summit turnaround point. Instead I diverted off the trail near the end of the hike along a backbone ridge that takes you to a spire of rock -- great for "man in the mountain" photos. From the hike summit the views of Mt. Baker in particular and Mt. Shuksan are excellent. You can also see mountain ranges in all directions. We were there the first of Sept and walked over short patches of snow. A great hike in open terrain that lets you enjoy long views of the local mountains.