Heliotrope ridge is known locally as a mecca of early season backcountry skiing, because high-elevation slopes are easily accessible from the car. That is, they are accessible when the road is open. Glacier Creek Road is currently closed a few miles shy of the trailhead, but the road is scheduled to be reopened in November 2013.
For summer hiking, it’s not recommended to go late spring/early summer because most of the creeks don’t have bridges, and the meltwater makes for dangerous crossings.
From the massive parking lot at the trailhead on Glacier Creek Road, enter a hemlock forest and drop down to cross Grouse Creek on a bridge. Continue into the Mt. Baker Wilderness. Cross three creeks as the trail continues up. After two miles, you’ll pass a backcountry campsite, the former site of the Kulshan Cabin. Soon after you’ll reach a junction – go left. The climber’s trail up to Baker and its shoulder peaks goes right.
Soon after, you’ll have to make crossings of braided Heliotrope creek, which can be treacherous. Once safely across, proceed through meadows to the hemlock-lined edge of Coleman Glacier’s lateral moraine. See the massive glacier stretched out below.
Explore this ridge and the alpine area. The views are incredible, and the skiing is great in the wintertime.