Beaver Lake Loop–wetland wonderland on Lord Hill

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A placid Beaver Lake on a beautiful winter’s day.

Location: Lord Hill Park near Snohomish

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.2 miles

High Point: 650 feet

Elevation gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: easy

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Notes: Dogs must be on leash; Map available online

Access:  From Everett, head east on US 2 for 8.0 miles and take 88th Street SE Exit. Turn right onto 88th Street SE (which eventually becomes 2nd Street) and drive 0.6 mile. Then turn left onto Lincoln Ave which becomes the Old Snohomish-Monroe Highway and drive for 2.7 miles. Next turn right onto 127th Ave SE and proceed for 1.6 miles to park entrance and trailhead on your left.

Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow-free winter hike, good trail running destination

The crown jewel of the Snohomish County Park system, Lord Hill contains over 1,460 acres of undeveloped ridge along the 029Snohomish River between the bustling communities of Snohomish and Monroe. Traversed by more than 30 miles of trails and several old woods roads, the park offers plenty of good hiking options. Enjoy quiet woodland walks, wetlands explorations, riverside rambling, and a couple of scenic viewpoints, too. A popular and fairly easy trip and one that can be enjoyed by hikers of all ages and abilities is the 2.2 mile Beaver Lake Loop.

From the main parking area and trailhead set out on a fine wide path for .4 mile gently dropping to a junction. You’ll be returning on the path to the right, so head left through a tunnel of alders. After another .4 mile reach a junction with the Pipeline Trail, a main thoroughfare through the park along a buried pipeline. Marshy wildlife rich Beaver Lake (not quite a lake actually) lies just to the left. Scan the reeds and snags for avian life.

Now continue south along the lake’s shore and after another .3 mile reach a four way junction. The Pipeline Trail continues straight ahead remaining high on a forested ridge.  The trail left heads to Temple Pond, a nice one mile side trip loop. Check it out or head right on the Pipeline Cut-off Trail reaching the park’s Main Trail after another .1 mile.

Now follow this trail right avoiding side trails and return back to the trailhead after 1.0 mile. This loop is a good choice any time of year, but it particularly makes for a good late fall or winter walk. And when the rare occurrence of a blanketing snow covers the park, the Beaver Lake Loop makes for an excellent introductory snowshoe route. The wide trail and gentle grades extends a friendly welcome to novice snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

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

For more information on snow free winter hikes in western Washington consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington deck.

Get your copy today!

Get your copy today!

Robe Canyon─Follow a silenced railroad into a thundering chasm

Robe Canyon is a historically and scenically fascinating place to hike

Robe Canyon is a historically and scenically fascinating place to hike

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Green trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 7.0 miles to trailhead located on your right, directly across from Forest Road 41. Park on road shoulder.

Note: Dogs must be leashed. Trail along the river is not recommended for young children.

Contact: Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Department

Good to know: historic, snow-free winter hike, dog-friendly

Constructed almost entirely by the Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, this 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 an old town site that once sported a couple of mills, freight sheds, and a lime kiln. You’ll have a hard time 048imagining 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 034frothing 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 miles, 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.Snohomish-NEW

                                                   

For more information on this hike and other snow-free hiking destinations in Western Washington, pick up a copy of my Winter Hikes of Western Washington deck.Winter Hikes Card Deck

Huckleberry Mountain — Savor solitude high above the Suiattle River

070Quick Facts:

Location: Suiattle River Valley

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 13.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 4600 feet

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway Map 111SX

Notes: Glacier Peak Wilderness-wilderness rules apply; Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Access: From Darrington travel north on SR 530 turning right onto FR 26 (Suiattle River Road immediately after the Suak River Bridge. Then follow FR 26 first on pavement, then gravel 14.5 miles to the unobtrusive trailhead on your right.

Good to Know: alpine views, dog-friendly, wildflowers, solitude, backpacking opportunities, Glacier Peak Wilderness

You want solitude? You’ve got it on the Huckleberry Mountain Trail. It’s one of the loneliest trails in the North Cascades. But there’s a price to pay in vertical feet, 4600 feet worth. Starting from valley bottom, the Huckleberry Mountain Trail is one of the last “complete” trails left in the North Cascades. A half-century of aggressive logging severed many of our trails from their valley roots (or worst- obliterating them).

Starting under a glorious canopy of ancient Douglas-fir the trail begins its long and winding way up the mountain. While the 010grade is good and tread intact (except for two slumping spots), undergrowth is encroaching upon this trail in places, making fall a good time to hike it. The trail receives little maintenance (actually, in these days of budgetary neglect, most of are trails receive little maintenance-a true national shame) and if we don’t use it we may lose it.

Alternating between short switchbacks and long traverses, the trail works its way up the broad mile high peak. Cross many creeks at first—but carry water for the dry summit ridge. At about 4.5 miles the grade eases as ridge crest is attained.

Now through thinning forest and pocket meadows enjoy expansive views east over the Suiattle to Glacier Peak and south to Circle Peak and White Chuck Mountain. Continue along the ridge straddling the Glacier Peak Wilderness boundary. At 6.5 miles on fading tread in meadows attain a 5,483-foot knoll. The trail once went to an old lookout site, but the tread beyond is mostly gone. Call it quits here and savor the views. To the east Buck Creek flows through an emerald valley of primeval forest. Above it stand Buckindy and Green Mountains. Glacier Peak steals the show though.

For detailed information on this hike and 124 others in the North Cascades, pick up a copy of my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!0486

North Lake–Secluded Lake off popular Mountain Loop Highway

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Scoured ledges hang over the cold waters of North Lake.

Quick Facts:

LocationMountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land AgencyMount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 6.4 miles

High Point: 4,900 feet

Elevation gain: 2,300 feet

Difficulty: difficult

Green Trails MapMountain Loop Highway no. 111SX

ContactDarrington Ranger District

Notes: Access road is rough in spots; high clearance recommended

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 26 miles. Just beyond the entrance for the Big Four Picnic Area, turn left onto FR 4060. Follow for 4.8 miles to trailhead at road’s end.

Good to know: dog-friendly, old-growth forest, trail less travelled, backpacking opportunities

It’s a tough trek up, over, and down a steep and rocky ridge to North Lake; a fair price to pay for losing the crowds that often frequent the neighboring trails on the popular Mountain Loop Highway. The way begins in an old cut, but primeval forest is

Remote and secluded North Lake.

Remote and secluded North Lake.

soon encountered after negotiating a series of short switchbacks. Drop-then climb and in less than a mile reach popular Independence Lake sitting in a rugged little basin, flanked on the west by ancient trees and on the east by rocky slopes. It’s a nice spot, but North Lake waits.

Continue onward up then down along the western shore to the marshy and brushy north end of the lake before beginning to climb, steeply at times. En route, be sure to take time to admire a massive double-trunked Alaska yellow cedar, one of the largest outside Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks.
Continue clamoring on a rough and tumble ascent. Bear right at the junction 021with the Helena Ridge Trail (an old abandoned trail that volunteers have recently been reopening). Work your way to a ridge where there are some decent window views. Then continue through heather meadows passing a small tarn. Just off to your right is a larger tarn reached by an obvious trail. This picturesque body of water, often mistaken for North Lake by wishful hikers is never-the-less worth exploring and a good spot for those not inclined to continue on.
North Lake bound hikers need to go left at this confusing junction and head up some talus climbing another 200 feet reaching a narrow shoulder on Independence Mountain. From here the lake lies 800 feet below in a basin of glacier-scoured ledges and fields of heather. Carefully make your way down the steep path passing tarns, talus, and cascading creeks to the secluded lake. Not much room to wander, but you shouldn’t have to worry about sharing this spot with too many fellow hikers.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Independence Lake visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more detailed information on this hike and scores of others nearby, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook. 0486

 

 

 

 

Round Lake — Find solitude on Lost Creek Ridge

Round Lake is enticing to look at from Lost Creek Ridge

Round Lake is enticing to look at from Lost Creek Ridge

Quick Facts:

 Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 10.0 miles

Elevation gain: 4300 feet

Difficulty: strenuous

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

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

Access: From Darrington follow the Mountain Loop Highway for 16 miles to a junction with Forest Road 49. Turn left following FR 49 for 3.0 miles to trailhead.

Notes: wilderness rules apply

Good to know: dog-friendly, solitude, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Practice Leave No Trace Principles, exceptional wildflowers

 

Aptly named Round Lake is tucked in a hidden basin high on Lost Creek Ridge. You’ll need to steeply climb Lost Creek Ridge

Sloan Peak from the Lost Creek Ridge Trail.

Sloan Peak from the Lost Creek Ridge Trail.

first—then steeply descend to the lake (and climb back out of the lake basin on the return).  This tough approach and challenging hike certainly does have one big advantage though (besides giving you a heck of a workout), it practically guarantees you’ll have little company at this delightful destination. And even if you decide not to go all the way to the lake, some awfully beautiful views can still be enjoyed along the way—especially of Sloan Peak, “the Matterhorn” of the Cascades.

The trail starts off easy enough however. Wander through lush cedar bottomlands for a half mile or so before beginning to climb. It’s then a steep grunt—arduously steep. Labor under a canopy of magnificent old-growth. While the shade helps keep you from overheating, there’s no water along the way—so pack plenty. After slogging up nearly three demanding miles, reach 4,400-foot Bingley Gap, a small forested saddle on Lost Creek Ridge. Then head eastward along the ridge and climb some more! Gaps in the canopy provide some view of nearby Mount Pugh. Forest cover soon yields to high meadows. Begin collecting your scenic rewards for all of your hard work. Prominent pointy Sloan Peak steals the show. And as difficult as it may be to take your eyes off of this captivating landmark, hundreds of other summits are yelling out to be recognized; Painted, Stuart, Daniel, Del Campo, Morning Star, Sperry, and Vesper among them.

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Solitude at Round Lake.

After some spectacular ridgeline hiking, reach a junction. The main trail continues right for several very rugged miles of more high country. Feel free to walk a short distance traversing a sprawling meadow and rounding a ridge for a spectacular view of Glacier Peak.

For Round Lake,  take the trail left to a small gap (el. 5,600 ft) and a great view down to Round Lake sparkling below in an open basin. The lake looks like a trek to get to, and it is. If you’re spent, there’s no shame in not continuing. Just kick back and enjoy the view.

If however you’re enticed to soak your feet in that sparkling gem, proceed.  After dropping 600 feet into the basin arrive at the lake in 0.7 mile. Bugs can be a nuisance early in the season when the air is calm. But it’s nothing the resident frogs and swallows won’t eventually take care of. Rest up for the arduous return.

 

For information on lodging and other attractions near Darrington, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more detailed information and maps on this hike and others along the Mountain Loop Highway and throughout the North Cascades, pick up a copy of my best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook (Mountaineers Books)!0486