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