Suiattle River– A wild river and majestic primeval forest within the shadows of Glacier Peak

DSC00224Quick Facts:

Location: Suiattle River Road

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 13.0 miles

Elevation gain: 1,000 feet

Green Trails Maps:  Glacier Peak no. 112

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

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or interagency pass required

Access: From Darrington travel north on SR 530 for 7.5 miles turning right onto FR 26 (Suiattle River Road). Follow FR 26 first on pavement, then gravel 22.5 miles all the way to its end at a large parking area for the Suiattle Trailhead.

Good to Know: exceptional old-growth; dog-friendly, kid-friendly, Glacier Peak Wilderness, backpacking opportunities

 

Rejoice! The Suiattle River Road is finally open again. After being ravaged by floods in 2003, hikers, campers, hunters, horseback riders, fishers, and other DSC00180outdoor recreationists have longed for this road to reopen. A lack of funding and some misguided maneuvers by a couple of groups kept this road from reopening much sooner. Finally on October 25th of this year, the road was officially re-opened. And scads of recreationists from throughout the region have been heading up this incredibly beautiful valley since the ribbon was cut.

While winter is rapidly approaching and valley trails like the one leading to the Green Mountain Lookout will have to be put on next year’s hiking plans—the Suiattle River Trail remains snow free and ready to hike now. And despite the fact that maintenance on this feeder trail to the Pacific Crest Trail has been limited in the last decade—the trail is currently in excellent shape. It is a great trail too to be introduced to this wilderness valley.

From the trailhead, start hiking east soon coming to the Sulphur Mountain trail. This steep and challenging trail leads to a lookout site high on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain. The views from it of Glacier Peak, fourth highest mountain in the state, are stupendous. Put this trail on your next summer’s hiking list as well.

Continue on the Suiattle River Trail following an old road bed and enter the sprawling Glacier Peak Wilderness. Pass through groves of majestic old growth forest. Some of the finest and biggest stretches of ancient forest in the state are here in this valley. Pass a small cascade and at 0.8 mile come to an unmarked junction. The brushy trail right is the Milk Creek Trail, but it currently remains unhikable for most due to a washed out bridge across the Suiattle River. Hopefully the Forest Service will be able to secure the funding to replace the missing span and once again open up this incredible trail to hikers.

DSC00170Continue up the Suiattle River Trail soon leaving the old road bed. The trail carries on through spectacular old-growth forest groves. At about 1.5 miles reach your first good views of the roaring milky-colored glacier-silted river. The trail continues upriver skirting ledges providing excellent river views and glances of prominent pointy Grassy Point towering above.

At a little over 3.0 miles come to a nice riverside campsite. Shortly beyond are more excellent river views and an impressive grove of ancient and towering Douglas-firs. Come to a prominent side creek cascading down from a tarn high on Sulphur Mountain. During rainy periods expect to get your feet wet crossing it.

The trail continues through primeval forest, crossing more creeks and skirting more ledges. It makes a brief climb after rounding

Sun filters through a misty forest canopy creating an ethereal setting.

Sun filters through a misty forest canopy creating an ethereal setting.

some overhanging ledges before coming to a bridged crossing of another prominent creek tumbling down from Sulphur Mountain. At 6.5 miles come to Canyon Creek spanned by an impressive suspension bridge. Here find good campsites too. This is a good spot for day hikers to turn around. Beyond, the trail soon reaches the Pacific Crest Trail where miles of high country adventure await. But currently buried in the snow, these destinations will have to wait until next summer.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Suiattle River visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

 For more information on more hikes in the Suiattle River Valley and throughout the area, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades Book.0486

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge– Portland’s Premier Wildlife Refuge

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Enjoy walking peaceful trails in the heart of bustling Portland.

Quick Facts:

Location: Sellwood neighborhood, Portland, Oregon

Land Agency: Portland Parks and Recreation

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation gain: 60 feet

Contact: Portland Parks and Recreation

Notes: dogs must be leashed

Access: From Ross Island Bridge follow US 26 east (Powell Boulevard) immediately turning right onto SR 99E (SE McLoughlin Boulevard). In just over one mile exit right onto SE Milwaukie Avenue proceeding south .1 mile to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly; dog-friendly; bird watching, historical

 

Once destined to become an industrial site, this 168-acre tract of forest and wetland in the heart of Portland, became the city’s first formally dedicated urban wildlife refuge in 1988. Oaks aren’t abundant here—but cottonwoods are, along with eagles, waterfowl, and great blue herons, Portland’s official bird.

From the trailhead follow a paved path from an urban environment into an area of meadow, woodlands and wetlands. Soon coming to a junction, head left on a dirt trail. You’ll be returning on the paved path right. The path skirts the base of a bluff. Above are houses and civilization, but you are surrounded by trees. Continue hiking, winding along the edge of a sprawling wetland.

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The Springwater Trail makes for a nice long distance bike ride or running route through the city.

An imposing mausoleum soon interrupts the mostly natural scene. But the walls facing the refuge became the country’s largest hand painted outdoor mural in 2009; depicting native wildlife and vegetation allowing the seven story building to “fit in.” Children will love it. Can you identify all of the critters on the wall?

The trail continues around the wetland coming close to water’s edge a couple of times allowing you to put those binoculars to work. Look for pintails, mallards, coots, or widgeons.

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One of the few remaining “Trolley Parks” on the West Coast.

Eventually come to a meadow on the south end of the refuge. Trails left head to Sellwood Boulevard and Sellwood Park. Continue across meadow passing beneath a railroad underpass coming to the paved Springwater Corridor Trail and the Oaks Amusement Park. Opened in 1905 and now run by a nonprofit corporation, the small and delightful Oaks Park is one of the oldest continuously run amusement parks in the country.  Admission to the grounds is free and the rides are modestly priced. Treat the kids or continue hiking by following the Springwater Corridor Trail north. A former rail line extending from just south of downtown all the way to Boring, it weaves together several parks and greenbelts.

After hiking .7 mile on this popular biking and running trail, come to a junction. A short trail leads left through mature forest to nice overlooks on the Willamette River of East and Hardtack Islands. Check it out, or return right on paved path passing the Tadpole Pond frog study area, and coming to a familiar junction. Return left to the trailhead.

For more detailed information on this hike and many others in the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area, consult my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).Columbia River Gorge Cover

For more information on great places to visit, dine at and stay at in Portland, check out Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Pinnacle Lake — Pretty little lake perched on a shoulder of Mount Pilchuck

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Snow lingers well into summer here despite being at relatively low elevation.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway, near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 3.8 miles

Elevation gain: 1,100 feet

Green Trails Maps:  Granite Falls WA- No. 109, Silverton WA- No. 110

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

Notes: access road is rough, high clearance vehicles recommended.

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 15.6 miles turning right onto FR 4020.  Follow this gravel road for 2.7 miles to a junction then bear right onto FR 4021 and continue for 3.0 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: old-growth; dog-friendly

Pinnacle is a pretty little subalpine lake perched in a rugged basin on a shoulder of Mount Pilchuck. The hike is short. However, it isn’t very sweet! Steep and full of rocks and roots; the trail is also often muddy and slippery. If it weren’t for the all big trees along the way you’d swear you were hiking in the Appalachians, not the Cascades. But once you reach the tarn toting ridge leading up to Pinnacle Lake, you’re quickly reminded that you are indeed in the Pacific Northwest. And you’re in the Puget Sound Convergence Zone, one of the wettest spots in the Cascades. Note the girth of the trees, lushness of the forest understory, and presence of species usually found at higher elevations.

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Pinnacle Lake sits just within the boundaries of the Mount Pilchuck State Park.

Start by taking the very short Bear Lake Trail. On good tread pass through a gateway pair of massive cedar and in no time come to a junction. The short level path right leads to placid Bear Lake. Ringed with ancient forest and lined with skunk cabbage, horsetails, and huckleberries; Bear is far from bare when it comes to vegetation. It’s a nice place to introduce young children to the wilds.

For Pinnacle continue hiking left, crossing Bear Creek on a newly constructed bridge (thanks to the Washington Trails Association); then begin climbing steeply. After a mile of difficult going, the climb eases and the tread improves. Now along a ridge crest head due west for the lake. Gaps in the forest allow limited but good views north to Three Fingers, Liberty, Baker, and other impressive peaks. After 1.8 miles a small tarn is reached in marshy meadows. Many a hiker has been fooled into thinking that this little body of water is Pinnacle. It’s not, so keep hiking following a muddy path along a creek for 0.1 mile to Pinnacle Lake sitting pretty beneath a prominent point on Mount Pilchuck. Rocks and ledge near Pinnacle’s cascading outlet creek provide good resting and admiring points. There’s some good exploring to be done here, too—but it’s as rough and wet as the country you’ve just hiked through. Perhaps a better plan is to just relax by the lake before returning.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Pinnacle Lake visit www.snohomish.org

Snohomish-NEWFor more information on this trail and many others nearby, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades Book.

Iron Goat Trail –Hike back into time to one of Washington’s most tragic events

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One of the many tunnels along the trail.

Quick Facts:

Location: Stevens Pass

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 12.0 miles

Elevation gain: 650 feet

Green Trails Maps: Alpine Lakes Stevens Pass no. 176S

Contact: Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required

Access: From Everett follow US 2 east for 55 miles to Milepost 55. Turn left onto the Old Cascade Highway and proceed for 2.3 miles turning left onto FR 6710. Continue for 1.4 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: dog-friendly; kid-friendly, historic

 

Follow an old rail line back into time to the no longer town of Wellington, site of the worst avalanche disaster in American history. Marvel at engineering feats required for building the Great Northern Railroad across this rugged terrain over a century ago. Admire the tenacity of tycoon James J. Hill and the backbreaking work of the thousands of laborers who constructed this transcontinental railroad. And praise the hundreds of Volunteers for Outdoor Washington (VOW) who converted miles of this line into a topnotch trail.

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The trail offers some scenic views along with lots of historic signs and artifacts.

While the focal point of this trail is definitely historic, there’s plenty of great scenery to be enjoyed along the way, too! Lined with ferns and alders the trail takes off east which is actually westward on the old rail line due to switchbacking. Soon come to a junction with the Martin Creek Crossover Trail. The original rail line continues straight. Take the trail left climbing stone steps to reach the upper grade of the old rail line. Then head right following what was the Great Northern Railroad line from 1893-1929 resurrected in the 1990s as the Iron Goat Trail.

Soon pass the remains of one of the many snow sheds and tunnels that helped protect the line from frequent avalanches. Next pass the first of several handsome rail line milepost replicas. The numbers represent miles from St Paul, Minnesota, the line’s eastern terminus.  At .7 mile come to a junction with the Corea Crossover Trail which leads back to the lower grade. After another mile come to the 0.1 mile Spillway Spur, a mandatory side-trip heading left to an old reservoir.

Just shy of three miles reach the western end of the quarter mile long Windy Point Tunnel. Shortly afterwards come to the junction with the Windy Point Crossover Trail which steeply descends 700 feet to the US 2 trailhead and interpretive site (an alternative start). Continue walking the line soon reaching the Windy Point Viewpoint providing excellent viewing towards Stevens Pass and the Surprise Creek Valley.

Heading east the terrain gets more interesting as the trail crosses dark forest groves, brushy avalanche slopes and lots of maples and cottonwoods that add vibrant colors in autumn. Catch glimpses of the Old Stevens Pass Highway winding below. Eventually reach and enter a half mile intact all concrete snow shed.  The trail continues through it passing the Avalanche Disaster Viewpoint. It was here in 1910 where the worst avalanche disaster in American history occurred claiming 96 lives.

DSCN2963At 6.0 miles reach the former site of the railroad town of Wellington. Nothing remains of this once bustling community; abandoned when the rail line was rerouted to a new tunnel in 1929.  Wellington now serves as the eastern trailhead to the Iron Goat and the old tunnel through the Cascade Crest still survives. But it is closed to entry being extremely dangerous to travel. You may however still hear whispers of trains coming through it as well as voices from the past blowing across the trail.

For more information (including maps and historic sidebars) on this trail and many others nearby, check out my Day Hiking Central Cascades Book.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

 For information on places to stay and things to do in the Stevens Pass area, check out Northwest Tripfinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

A great nearby place to grab a bite to eat and stay for the night is the historic Cascadia Inn in the railroad town of Skykomish.

Cutthroat Lakes– Hike to a set of beautiful tarns beneath Bald Mountain

One of the many Cutthroat Lake scattered near bald Mountain.

One of the many Cutthroat Lakes scattered near bald Mountain.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; Washington Department of Natural Resources

Roundtrip: 6.0 miles

Elevation gain: 1,700 feet

Green Trails Maps: Silverton WA- No. 110

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

Notes: access road is narrow and parking is limited.

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 18 miles turning right onto FR 4030 (turnoff is just before Red Bridge). Continue for 1.4 miles turning right onto FR 4032 and proceed for 5.7 miles to trailhead at road end.

Good to Know: old-growth; dog-friendly; backpacking opportunities; no fires

 

From the edge of an old cut on Mallardy Ridge, enter mature forest and begin an up-and-down journey through stands of impressive timber and bountiful berry patches. At about 1.0 mile enter WA DNR’s Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA), an area off limits to logging and road building. Consisting of over 33,500 acres, this NRCA protects exceptional habitat and is home to marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls. The area is particularly noted for its heavy precipitation and cool temperatures which allow for subalpine plants to grow and thrive at much lower elevations than in other areas of the Cascades.

After reaching a 3,640-foot high point, the trail drops 200 feet to cross a tributary of Boardman Creek in parkland meadows. Lose another 100 feet

A hiker enjoys reflections upon the placid waters of  one of the Cutthroat Lakes.

A hiker enjoys reflections upon the placid waters of one of the Cutthroat Lakes.

afterwards skirting cliffs and crossing a rocky avalanche slopes. The going can be a little rough here with rocky terrain. Take your time and look for cairns to help keep you on course.

Then start climbing again—steeply—reaching the first of the Cutthroat Lakes (el. 4200 feet), a series of small tarns surrounded by heather meadows tucked beneath the long ridge of Bald Mountain. Campsites dot the area, and social paths diverge in every direction. Treat the fragile heather meadows with care here. After admiring reflecting peaks in the lakes’ placid waters consider extending your hike. The trail continues another mile climbing 600 more feet to connect with the Bald Mountain Trail. From here you can amble for a half mile through gorgeous meadows providing breathtaking views out over Puget Sound to Mount Rainer, and directly below to the Spada Reservoir and the Sultan Basin. Bald Mountain’s 4,851-foot rocky summit however, requires some scrambling.

Upon returning, consider that this gem of a trail was built by Walt Bailey and his Civilian Conservation Commission (CCC) buddies. But, not back in the 1930s. They constructed the trail in the 1990s, when they were in their 70s!

 

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Cutthroat Lakes visit www.snohomish.org

For more information on this trail and many others nearby, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades Book.

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