At just under 11,000 feet in elevation, Mt. Baker is one of the highest peaks in the cascade range, setting the stage for one of the Best Hill Climbs events in the US, the Mt. Baker Hill Climb. The event’s history dates back to 1977 when local cyclist Jerry Baker proposed the idea of a road race that would take riders up the steep and winding roads of Mt. Baker. The first race attracted 38 riders and has grown in popularity since then and is an event we consider to be one of the Best Road Cycling Events in the Northwest. Today, the event attracts hundreds of cyclists from across the globe, and it has become a challenging test of endurance and stamina for cyclists of all skill levels. With steep elevation and several switchbacks, this ride is not for the faint of heart, but the views are stunning. Whether you’re a casual rider or a seasoned racer, there’s a place for you. Open to anyone over 13 years old, the event offers three categories: Social, Recreational, and Competitive. However, with a cap at 400 participants and the event sells out every year.
Whatcom Events organizes the Mt. Baker Hill Climb and they are a non-profit organization run by volunteers whose goal is to sustainably manage events highlighting the varied natural beauty and outdoor activities all while supporting local non-profits, with the beneficiary of this event being Shifting Gears. They also produce the famous Ski to Sea race in May.
Event & Course Info
The race kicks off in Glacier, a picturesque town at the foot of Mt. Baker. Competitive cyclists are the last to start at 8:30am, but all riders that navigate the 22-mile stretch, they’re treated to dense forests and panoramic mountain views, with the route winding through charming communities. The crowning jewel is the highway, known as one of the most scenic paved roads in the country.
The Mt. Baker Hill Climb route ascends 4,462 feet from Chair 9 in Glacier to Artist Point over 22 miles where the average gradient is 6.5% with pitches that hit 14% grade. The Mt. Baker Highway (SR542) is rarely closed to motorized vehicles from Glacier to Artist Point. The climb becomes steeper as riders approach the ski area, with the final few miles being particularly challenging. The region around Mt. Baker is known for its stunning natural beauty, including snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and dense forests. The area is also home to several rivers and lakes, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
There are mechanical support stations at the start, along the route, and at Artist Point. And if you’re feeling the strain, aid stations at White Salmon, Chair 1, and Artist Point have got you covered with snacks and drinks. Once you reach the top, you have the option to bike down, or consider carpooling or utilizing theBaker Bus shuttle service to transport bags and cyclists.
If you’re racing in the Competitive Division, you stand a chance to bag custom medals and a winner’s jersey. The top male and female from each division will be honored, and the top three of each division will receive a medal on the day of the event.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
For a more home-like experience in the mountains, there are also private vacation rentals to choose from depending on your needs, from cozy cabins to dog friendly hideouts. The Doug Fir and Silver Fir Campgrounds and Mt. Baker Lodging sites are close by for those that prefer to camp under the stars.
Food options near the Mt. Baker Hill Climb event include Heather Meadows Café, Chair 9, Graham’s Restaurant and Wake ‘n Bakery, while nearby Bellingham boasts a vibrant culinary scene that marries Pacific Northwest flavors with innovative gastronomy, showcased through its eclectic mix of farm-to-table restaurants, artisanal bakeries, and local craft breweries. This coastal city offers a delightful blend of traditional tastes and contemporary creations, drawing foodies eager to explore its diverse and sustainable culinary offerings. Check out Eater’s list of best food & drink spots in Bellingham.
Tucked away at the foot of the mighty Mt. Baker, Glacier, Washington is an under-the-radar gem in the Pacific Northwest. As the last town before the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, its strategic location promises a myriad of outdoor adventures. Skyline Divide Trail is a standout favorite among hikers visiting the Glacier region. This 9-mile round trip trail begins in dense, mossy forests, gradually unfolding into expansive meadows dotted with wildflowers—even in September. As you ascend, you’re treated to uninterrupted views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding Cascade Range. The open ridgeline at the top allows for panoramic vistas, making it a perfect spot for a picnic or simply to relish the serenity.
For those who prefer two wheels, Glacier offers some thrilling mountain biking opportunities, especially around the Razor Hone Base Area. September’s relatively dry conditions provide the perfect terrain for bikers to navigate the trails, from beginner-friendly paths to adrenaline-pumping downhill tracks. Winding through thick forests, over wooden bridges, and past glacial streams, these trails are as scenic as they are exhilarating.
Finally, the North Fork Nooksack River, flowing just outside of Glacier, is a haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. By mid-September, the waters are teeming with Pacific salmon making their annual migration upstream. The river’s clear waters, surrounded by lush forests and the distant silhouette of Mt. Baker, provide an enchanting backdrop to this meditative sport.
Aside from the Mt. Baker Hill Climb, there are many other top road cycling events in Washington and the broader Northwest Region, including Seattle to Portland (STP) from the Cascade and Portland Cycle Clubs, as well as RAMROD organized by Redmond Cycling Club.
For multi-sport endurance athletes looking for other events in the state of Washington and the Northwest, be sure to check out our full list of Strambecco Best in Class trail running, gravel and mountain biking events.