Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
The Heliotrope Ridge hike offers great effort to reward payoff. The Forest Service Road 39 is easily accessed (and only 8 miles long) off Mount Baker Highway 542 just past the town of Glacier. The road is, lets say, 90% paved...WHAT?! As other Forest Service roads go, this one is in comparatively great condition (a pleasant surprise). Once you reach the trailhead, there is only around 3 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain separating you from being glacier-side under the shadow of Mount Baker.
My plan took me on the standard trail route to the Coleman Glacier Overlook. The majority of the hike is on moderate grade, well maintained trail through forest. The hike does require many stream/waterfall crossings, which keeps it interesting along the way. Hiking in early October, the water posed no issue and I didn't even get my shoes wet. However, in early season conditions beware...the water is reported to be a serious hazard. Near the end of the climb, the trail busts out of the woods and the path deteriorates into an exposed moraine off the side of the Coleman Glacier.
From there, boot paths seem to fan out in every direction. Choose a path and start exploring! I headed on an uphill path, gaining another 500 feet of elevation through loose dirt/rock and class two scrambling up closer to the glacier. I stopped at a large, beautiful waterfall and refilled my water bottle with some (literally) ice cold water. I hung out for a few minutes, took many pictures, and then started my journey back out. All around this was a nice hike. With its relatively easy access and great views, Heliotrope Ridge is definitely worth a stop!