Green Lake and Ranger Falls –Towering trees and a three-tiered cataract


IMG_3147Quick Facts:

Location: Carbon River Valley, Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 9.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,350 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Map: Mount Rainier National Park 269SX

Notes: National Park entrance fee; Dogs Prohibited; Practice Leave No Trace Principles; camping only in designated spots and with a permit

Access: From Buckley, follow SR 165 south. At 10.4 miles (just beyond Fairfax Bridge) bear left onto the Carbon River Road and continue for 7.7 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, exceptional waterfall, exceptional old growth forest, bike-hike possibility

 Roam through miles of some of the largest and oldest trees in Mount Rainier National Park to a placid lake and a stunning waterfall. While Green Lake is a pretty sight—it’s triple-tiered Ranger Falls and the surrounding primeval forest that are the real treats on this hike. Amble up the Carbon River Valley before briskly climbing to the small lake tucked beneath Tolmie Peak. And try to keep your neck from straining while constantly tilting your head upward admiring towering firs, cedars and hemlocks.

Before 2007 the hike to Green Lake was a mere 3.4 miles roundtrip. But late in the autumn of 2006, heavy rainfall caused theIMG_3160 Carbon River to flood and washout large sections of the Carbon River Road. Rather than reopen this prone-to-washouts road, park officials decided to permanently convert it to a trail. The bad news—many popular short day hikes became much longer and the Ipsut Creek Campground was no longer car accessible. The good news is that the Carbon River road-trail makes for a pleasant hike year round and is also open to mountain bikes. Consider biking the first 3.1 miles of this hike to the old Green Lake Trailhead. Here you’ll find a bike rack and a much shorter hike to the lake.

The trailhead has limited parking, so plan to possibly park on the side of the road leading to it. Now start walking up the old Carbon River Road. The road-trail pulls away from the roaring glacier-fed river, but never far enough away that you lose sound of it. The walking is easy with very little elevation gain. The surrounding forest is stunning—an emerald cathedral of towering ancient conifers. On sunny days, the thick canopy will do its best to keep you well shaded. And on overcast days the layered tree crowns will spare you from a soaking. At about 1.2 miles you’ll come to a junction with the indiscreet Washington Mine Trail. This path takes off south on a steep short jaunt to an old copper mine on the northern flanks of Florence Peak.

You want to continue east on the road-trail soon coming upon a channel of the Carbon River. Pass through more groves IMG_3116of impressive arboreal giants and cross Falls Creek on a wide bridge. Continue upriver eventually coming to a bank high above the raging river. Here enjoy excellent views of the cloudy silty pounding river below and of Tirzah Peak across the wild waterway. Just after leaving the open river bank you’ll come to the Green Lake Trailhead. Now 3.1 miles into your hike, you’ve climbed a mere 350 feet. You’ll now subdue close to a 1,000 vertical feet in almost half the distance.

The well-built trail immediately climbs darting around massive old-growth giants. Some of the trees here are more than 800 years old—mere saplings when the Crusades were in full swing in Europe and Genghis Khan was sweeping across Asia. You’ll pass beneath a few fallen giants too—just as impressive as their vertical kindred. The trail marches up steep lush slopes undulating between short switchbacks and short traverses.

Eventually come to a junction. The way left is a short spur leading to an up-close and sure to get mist in your face viewpoint of Ranger Falls. By far the prettiest waterfalls in the Carbon River Valley, in early season they are mesmerizing. Here Ranger Creek plunges down mossy ledges for more than 170 feet. The falls are triple tiered and fan into twin falls before converging back into one. Your view of them is unobstructed. Stay for a while—especially on a warm summer’s day.

Then continue hiking commencing up another stretch of switchbacks. The climb then eases followed by a slope traverse before coming to Ranger Creek. Cross the creek on a high log bridge—then make one last climb—before descending a tad and coming to Green Lake. Here next to the placid lake’s outlet is a small opening graced with several large weather-bleached logs. Prop yourself up on one, grab some snacks, take a break and enjoy the view.

The lake sits in an emerald basin. Its green tinted waters reflecting the surrounding verdant forests. No surprise—though quite unimaginative where this lake got its name. Much of the lakeshore is lined with thick vegetation—so don’t expect to find a sandy beach or sunning area. Instead hang out for a little while on one of the logs and watch for resident birds. Then make your return—with a mandatory second viewing of Ranger Falls.

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park, pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0



Barlow Point–Little known lookout site on Mountain Loop Highway


While the forest is growing in around Barlow Pass, there are still some decent views to be had from this old lookout post.

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

High Point: 3,222 feet

Elevation gain: 850 feet

Difficulty: moderate

Green Trails Map: Sloan Peak, WA- No. 111

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 

Note: Northwest Forest Pass or Inter-agency Pass required

Access: From Granite Falls, follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 31 miles to Barlow Pass and trailhead located on your left.

 Good to know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, historic,

Are you interested in a nice little leg stretcher off of the Mountain Loop Highway sans the crowds? Check out Barlow Point, a little knob of a peak just above Barlow Pass and just below Mount Dickerman. Straddling the the Sauk-Stillaguamish Divide, this little summit hosted a fire lookout form 1935 to 1964. Much of the surrounding forest went up in flames in 1905, sparked by a locomotive heading to the mines of Monte Cristo. Large fire-scarred snags and a uniform forest a century old attests to this004 past event. And while the surrounding forest has been recovering nicely since that conflagration, Barlow Point’s rocky summit still remains semi-open providing some pretty nice views of an impressive wall of surrounding peaks.

From the 3,222-foot pinnacle, take in good close-ups of Sheep Mountain, Twin Peaks, Mount Dickerman, Stillaguamish Peak, and Big Four Mountain. Enjoy too a perspective of Bedal Peak, Spring Mountain and Mount Pugh. And while you’re on Barlow peering at the peaks, be sure to peek down at the rocky ground at a profusion of penstemon. This little showy flower resembling pink and purple trumpets, adorns Barlow’s ledges.

The hike starts from the parking area at Barlow Pass, once the site of a Forest Service Guard Station and now the site of a kiosk. A side trail immediately branches out left to follow the old railroad grade that once connected Monte Cristo to Everett. A quarter mile farther, another trail branches left, the old Government Trail. Both of these paths make for good rainy day walking and they can be hiked as a loop. The Barlow Point Trail continues right climbing steeply under a cool canopy of evergreens. It’s a short climb, and before you know it, you’ll be sitting on the point soaking up those aforementioned views. Good chance too, you’ll be soaking them up alone—a pretty rare occurrence off of the busy Mountain Loop Highway, but not on this oft forgotten trail.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Barlow Point visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For information including maps on more than 100 nearby hikes, consult my best-selling and trusted Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books)0486

Green Trails Maps available in Granite Falls at Granite Falls Ace  Hardware and Mountain Loop General Store.

Tubal Cain Mine and Buckhorn Lake — Take a “rhody trip” to an historic mine


DSCN7941Quick Facts:

Location: Buckhorn Wilderness, Olympic National Forest

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 12.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,100 feet

Contact: Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal Ranger District, Quilcene,

Green Trails Map: Olympic Mountains East 168SX

Notes: Wilderness regulations apply

Access: From Discovery Bay (Jct SR 20 and US 101), drive no US 101 north and turn left onto Louella Road; located across from Sequim Bay State Park entrance  Then drive 0.9 mile turning left onto Palo Alto Road. Continue for 6 miles bearing right onto FR 2880. After 1.7 miles bear left onto FR 2870. Then drive 12.6 miles (the last 3.0 miles can be rough) to the trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, Buckhorn Wilderness, exceptional rhododendron blooms, historic

Retrace a packer’s trail to a mine dating from the 1890s. Peer into dark forbidding shafts and saunter past relics left over from boomtown settlements that went bust. But the real find is the miles of rhododendrons and the wildflower-studded meadows beyond the mine.

Start hiking immediately passing the Silver Creek Shelter and crossing Silver Creek on a log bridge shortly afterward. Enter the Buckhorn Wilderness and travel across steep slopes high above Copper Creek. Hike through thick stands of second-growth conifers and a luxuriant tunnel of rhododendrons that reign purple in early summer. Occasional breaks in the forest canopy offer previews of the high country lying ahead.

At 3.2 miles, come to a junction. The trail left climbs steeply 0.9 mile into Tull Canyon. An interesting side trip—the trail IMG_2396immediately passes a mine shaft (extremely dangerous to enter) then climbs into the tight canyon. Here find the remains of a crashed World War II–era B-17 bomber. Just beyond that are the ruins of several cabins—remains of the mining settlement of Tull City.

The main trail continues up valley scrappy forest coming to another old mining town site—Copper City at 3.7 miles. It’s now strewn with campsites and rusted mining relics. The Tubal Cain Mine (named for an Old Testament figure said to be the forger of all implements of bronze and iron) lies just to the left. It is a private inholding within the wilderness and is still active (somewhat); respect all postings and leave any equipment alone.

Call it a hike here or continue, making a boot-wetting crossing of Copper Creek. Then begin climbing the valley’s west wall via a series of short (followed by one long) switchbacks. Traverse open slopes bursting with wildflowers. Twin-peaked Buckhorn Mountain with Iron Mountain by its side hovers over the far end of the valley. At 5.8 miles reach a junction. For Buckhorn Lake head left across scree and back into forest. Climb a little, then drop passing good camps and reaching the small lake tucked in thick timber at 6.2 miles. The lake isn’t much, but Copper Creek cascading into it is pretty.

For detailed information on this hike and on 135 other great hikes throughout Olympic National Park, the Olympic Peninsula, and Long Beach Peninsula, pick up a copy of my best selling and fully revised Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Books). The number one selling hiking guide to the Olympics is now updated, expanded, and includes many new hikes not featured in other guides. Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!

For information on where to stay and other places to play on the Olympic Peninsula, consult Northwest Tripfinder


Sultan River Canyon Trail — A near yet remote canyon housing big trees and a wild stretch of river

DSC03642Quick Facts:

Location: Sultan Basin

Land Agency: Snohomish County Public Utility District 

Roundtrip: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 850 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Access:  From Everett follow US 2 east to Sultan. At a traffic light just past Milepost 23 turn left onto Sultan Basin Road. Follow for 13.2 miles (pavement ends at 10.4 miles) to an information kiosk. Stop and sign-in acknowledging that you understand the rules and regulations for visiting the Sultan Basin which is Everett’s public water supply. Then bear left at a Y-intersection and continue 1.6 miles to parking area and trailhead.

Contact:  Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest 

Notes: Register (no fee) at kiosk at watershed entrance; dogs permitted on leash

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly,




Opened in 2015, this new trail takes you deep into the Sultan River Canyon where towering old growth trees and steep slopes shade a remote section of the Sultan River. The hike starts on a gated dirt road near the entrance of the parking area. Walk this road through pleasant forest gradually climbing about 250 feet.

After one mile, come to the beginning of the actual trail which is clearly signed. Now begin your descent into the deep dark canyon. Via a good grade the way switchbacks downward into the rugged canyon. The steep slopes here prevented past loggers from harvesting the canyon’s towering old trees. You’ll pass some impressive ancient giants. You’ll pass some nice small seasonal cascades too.


At 2.2 miles reach the canyon’s lush bottom and the rippling Sultan River. During the summer months, sunlight reaches the canyon floor allowing you to prop on a riverside rock and enjoy a sunny spot along the river. Watch for dippers flitting in the cool waters. After enjoying this quiet and remote spot prepare for your return journey where a 600 foot climb out of the canyon waits for you.


For information on lodging and other attractions near the Sultan Basin visit: www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

 For detailed information on this and other area hikes along US 2, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades, which contains 125 hikes complete with maps61ftQ+y-mgL

Swan Lake and Butte–listen to the cry of the loon

Loons nest on Swan Lake.

Loons nest on Northeastern Washington’s Swan Lake.

Quick Facts:

NOTE: Road to Swan Lake has been damaged due to winter storms and may not be open. Call Republic Ranger District for road status (509) 775-7400

Location: Colville National Forest, near Republic

Land Agency: US Forest Service

Roundtrip: 3.1 miles

Elevation gain: 360 feet

Contact: Colville National Forest

Notes: Dogs permitted on leash, but are not allowed on the beach.

Access: From Republic follow SR 21 south 6.7 miles turning right onto FR 53 (Scatter Creek Road). Follow for 7.3 miles to Swan Lake Campground and another .3 mile to the Day Use area and trailhead.


Hike around a lovely little lake encircled by cool forest high above the sweltering Sanpoil River Valley. A popular swimming hole for Ferry County residents, Swan Lake is also popular with breeding loons. Wander along the lake’s tranquil shoreline in early evening or morning and have an On Golden Pond moment listening to this beautiful and threatened bird’s eerie and primeval calls. Look for moose too and black bears, for Swan swarms with wildlife.


From the Day Use parking lot, head down a stairway to the lakeshore to pick up the trail. Head right passing a swimming area and a rustic kitchen shelter constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) during the Great Depression. Then continue on the trail rounding a boggy area. Free of gas-powered boats, the lake and surrounding forest are quite serene. But quiet this place is not—the air is filled with the chatter of ground and Douglas squirrels and a cacophony of bird song; nuthatches, chickadees, and warblers among them. The buzz of mosquitoes is a frequent sound too early in the season.

Up and over ledge, through pine and fir groves, beneath big cottonwoods and larch, and across patches of huckleberries, the trail follows along Swan’s shoreline. In late spring, arnica, lupine, penstemon, and wild strawberries brighten up the tread with087their cheery blossoms.

At 1.3 miles after rounding a ledge providing excellent lake views, reach a junction. The trail right leads to Swan Butte, a nice side trip—take it. Follow the flower lined trail .5 mile to the 3,960-foot butte with its tattered flag and decent views of the Kettle River Range to the east.

Retrace your steps back to the junction and resume looping around the lake. The way passes by a quiet cove before utilizing an old road lined with cedars. At 2.7 miles, come to FR 53. Turn left. Pass the boat launch and pick up the trail once more as it travels .4 mile through the campground back to the spur leading to the Day Use Area

For detailed information on this hike including maps; and information on other great hikes in the Colville National Forest, consult my hot-off-the-press Day Hiking Eastern Washington book (co-written with Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review).

Day Hiking Eastn Washington

 Great camping at Swan Lake or consider staying at the Northern Inn in nearby Republic.