Beers at the Bottom crew has hiked Table Mountain quite a few times this summer—two of which times were to impress out of town guests. Table Mountain is a perfect hike to show off the beauty of not only the North Cascades, but really Washington state overall. Located at the terminus of Mount Baker Highway in the Artist Point parking lot, the trailhead is easy to find and the hike is overall very short.
With an apropos moniker, Table Mountain looks ready for Baker and Shuksan to lay out a delicious spread. Rising steeply from the parking lot, the sides seem almost sheer from the bottom, leading to a flat peak. I think the view from the trailhead has intimidated many a visitor, some of which perhaps changed their plans and headed out to the easier and meandering trails on Artist Ridge and Huntoon Point. Let me assure you though: after the first time I hiked Table Mountain, I thought to myself, “That wasn't nearly as rough as I anticipated.”
The trail switchbacks up the face of Table Mountain, lessening the grade some, but not completely. There are still parts of the trail which are incredibly steep. At times, stone steps of flaking shale cut a trail up the mountain. The hike is treacherous in the snow—attempts should only be made by experienced hikers and climbers. Fortunately, this is a quick hike clocking in at 3 miles roundtrip with about 500 feet of elevation gain.
At the top, your reward is gorgeous views of both Shuksan to the east and Baker to the west. The end of the trail, at 1.5 miles, takes you to the west edge of Table Mountain, looking down on the Chain Lakes Trail below, and Bagley Lakes to the northeast. Usually, we don't hike out to the end of the trail, stopping instead at one of the many rocky clearings along Table Mountain's spine for lunch. One great little feature of Table Mountain is the number of cairns hikers have constructed from the abundance of loose rock. You may even be lucky enough to stumble upon an inuksuk, bracing against the strong winds on the mountain top.
After hiking back down to the parking lot, take a walk out to Artist Ridge and Huntoon Point. This truly is a walk, as parts of the trail are even paved and wheelchair accessible. Which makes it one of the most popular spot along the Mount Baker Highway so be prepared to share the area with field-trips of elementary students and tourists with cameras ready. The views are beautiful though—peaceful tarns reflecting Mount Shuksan, and plenty of spots to have a seat and take in the beauty of the region. From this perspective, it's easy to see why Mount Shuksan is said to be one of the most photographed mountains. Artist Ridge is also a great place to end your day, with the ability to look back over your shoulder at Table Mountain and say, “Oh hey, I climbed that today.”
For additional information on Table Mountain and Artist Ridge, including more photos and detailed directions, check out the following:
Washington Trails Association (WTA):
Washington State DOT: