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  • Writer's pictureMichael Graw

Glacier Creek Road: Status Update & How You Can Help

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

TLDR:

  1. Glacier Creek Road has been closed since 2021, limiting access to the north side of Mt. Baker.

  2. Multiple groups are working with USFS to repair the road, but there is currently no timeline for repairs.

  3. We're asking you to send a letter to Rep. Rick Larsen and the Mt. Baker Ranger District to say why restoring access to the north side of Mt. Baker is important to you.

Mt. Baker Park Glacier with a lenticular cloud over the summit
Photo credit: Michael Graw

Glacier Creek Road, which provides access to the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead on the north side of Mt. Baker, washed out in late November 2021.


The road is currently washed out at mile 3.8. While it remains open to non-motorized traffic, it’s a 9-mile, 2,000-foot elevation gain roundtrip trek to the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead. For the vast majority of recreational users, that means that the north side of Mt. Baker will remain inaccessible until the road is repaired.


Without Glacier Creek Road, it’s extremely difficult to access Heliotrope Ridge, a popular destination for early-season skiing and snowshoeing in October and November. In addition, snowmobilers previously used Glacier Creek Road throughout the winter. However, they are currently unable to pass the washout.


It’s not only winter recreational users who are affected, either. The Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead is also the primary access point for north-side climbs of Mount Baker via the Coleman-Deming glacier in the spring and summer. Individual users, guide companies, and outdoor education groups have all been significantly affected by the lack of access to the north side of Mt. Baker.


The Heliotrope Ridge trail also provides access to a stunning overlook of the Coleman-Deming Glacier, making it an extremely popular summertime hike.


In fact, so many user groups depend on access to the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead that Glacier Creek Road was designated a high need recreational access road under the Nooksack Access Travel Management plan that was completed in 2017.


Ongoing Efforts to Restore Access

There are currently several parallel efforts underway to reopen Glacier Creek Road.


The US Forest Service Mt. Baker Ranger District is currently working through its normal process for forest road repair. The process of environmental review, funding, and repair typically takes around three years. However, the Forest Service has not yet issued a timeline for when repairs are expected to occur.


Whatcom County Snowmobile Club is seeking to make temporary repairs to the washed out portion of the road. This would not be a permanent repair, but could restore limited access (potentially a single lane) until more long-term solutions for Glacier Creek Road can be found.


Whatcom County Snowmobile Club is currently navigating the repair approval and funding process with the Forest Service’s Mt. Baker Ranger District. However, there’s no guarantee this avenue will be successful and currently no timeline for repair work to begin.


Citizens for Forest Roads is leading another effort with a focus on long-term solutions for Glacier Creek Road and similarly under-maintained forest roads across Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The group has recently written to Senator Cantwell and Representative Congressman Rick Larsen to push for increased maintenance funding.


Citizens for Forest Roads is also working with the Forest Service to identify opportunities to re-engineer portions of Glacier Creek Road to reduce further washouts. This is important since the road was damaged in a similar spot to the current closure in 2013.


How You Can Help

The best way to expedite repairs to Glacier Creek Road is to let our elected representatives and the Forest Service know that this road is a priority for the backcountry community, hikers, and others. Our representatives can help direct road repair (i.e. culvert replacement) and maintenance funding to roads that are critical for recreational access—but they need to know which roads matter most.


With that in mind, we’re asking the backcountry community to write to Representative Rick Larsen (WA 2nd District) and the Forest Service’s Mt. Baker Ranger District to emphasize the importance of repairing Glacier Creek Road.


Below, you’ll find a sample letter with suggested talking points. The more you can personalize your letter, the greater the impact it will have. Letters should highlight the importance of the north side of Mt. Baker to you personally and to the outdoor community more broadly.


Please send letters to Representative Larsen using this form with the issue category ‘Other Issues’ and subject line ‘Glacier Creek Road’. If you live outside of Representative Larsen's district, you can enter the zip code 98226 (Bellingham) to send your letter. Please email letters to the Mt. Baker Ranger District at SM.FS.mbs_pao@usda.gov.

 

Dear Representative Larsen / Mt. Baker Ranger District,


My name is (your name) and I live in (city, state). I am writing to express concern over the continued closure of Glacier Creek Road (Forest Service Road 39) near Glacier, Washington.


The closure of Glacier Creek Road since 2021 has significantly limited access to the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead. This is a critical access point for recreation on the north side of Mt. Baker.


The Heliotrope Ridge Trail holds personal significant for me because ________.

  • It’s one of your favorite areas to hike, ski, or climb.

  • You had an adventure on Mt. Baker or have other memories from the Heliotrope Ridge area.

  • If you haven’t used the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead in the past, you can say that you have been waiting for the trailhead to reopen to hike, ski, or climb there.

The closure of this area has also had an impact on the outdoor community more broadly.

  • If you’re a member of an organization like The Mountaineers, Boeing Employees Alpine Society, Climbers of Color, or another group, please note that these organizations used to lead beginner-friendly climbs and teach critical skills on the north side of Mt. Baker but are currently unable to.

  • If you have noticed increased congestion at other trailheads, such as on the south side of Mt. Baker or at Artist Point, please note that.

It’s disappointing to see access to the north side of Mt. Baker closed for so long. I hope that your office / the ranger district can take steps to help repair Glacier Creek Road and restore access to the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead. Any effort you can make to improve access to this important area would make a huge difference to me personally and to the outdoor community as a whole.


Sincerely,

Your name


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3 Comments


Gilbert McBrien
Gilbert McBrien
Mar 04

Has anyone driven this and confirmed it’s repaired and open?

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Michael Graw
Michael Graw
Mar 04
Replying to

The road likely has snow on it right now, but people were driving it as of mid-February (before the recent snowfall).

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Jared Dillard
Jared Dillard
Oct 31, 2023

Looks like Glacier Creek road is back open: https://usfs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=2f5351d70b0d4ed9b13d372e9d109fcb

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