Hike of the Week for Friday, April 27, 2012
Follow a silenced railroad into a thundering chasm
Article and photo by Craig Romano
Robe Canyon is a historically and scenically fascinating place to hike.
Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls
Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks
Roundtrip: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Green trails Map: Granite Falls No. 109
Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 7.0 miles to trailhead located directly across from Forest Road 41.
Note: Dogs must be leashed. Trail along the river is not recommended for children.
Contact: Snohomish Parks and Recreation Department:
This is a short and sweet trail back into time and down into an impressive canyon cut by the South Fork Stillaguamish River. Start your hike into the 1,000-acre Robe Canyon County Park on a bluff shrouded in young forest. Here a series of signs inform you of the historic nature of Robe Canyon and what lies ahead—such as the glacial-fed Stillaguamish River and an old town site. The thriving railroad town of Robe once stood below. But, there is now nothing left of that settlement. Plenty of artifacts remain of the railroad however; the rail line that once connected the mining-now-ghost town of Monte Cristo to Everett. The remnant railroad relics along with the tight and stunning Robe Canyon where the Stillaguamish thunders through, make this short hike a real interesting and fascinating outing.
Constructed almost entirely by the Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, the well-built trail drops 300 feet off of the bluff via a series of switchbacks delivering you to a lush river bottom complete with big cedars, cottonwoods, Sitka spruce, and moss-draped maples. Pass by the old town site that once sported a couple of mills, freight sheds, and a lime kiln. You’ll have a hard time imagining now that all of this once stood here among all of this greenery.
Now come up along the river. In periods of heavy rainfall it bellows and roars. Signs of its strength lie all around you from undercut banks to toppled trees to silted flats. The trail continues along the wild waterway where occasional glimpses may be had of surrounding peaks. But the real interest lies just ahead where the river enters Robe Canyon.
Here follow the careening river on the old rail grade blasted into ledges above the frothing water. Admire the craftsmanship of the masonry that helped make it possible for a transportation line to be built through such a forbidding place. At 1.2 mile, a rock slide prohibits further exploration. Two intact railroad tunnels lie just ahead and hopefully the County Parks Department will someday make them accessible by reconstructing this damaged section of trail. It is extremely dangerous to proceed farther. So for now, sit and linger here admiring the crashing river and listening to the voices of the past echoing off of the canyon walls.
For information on lodging and other attractions near Robe Canyon visit www.snohomish.org.