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

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Misty autumn morning in the Suiattle River Valley.

Quick Facts:

Location: Suiattle River Road

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 13.0 miles

Elevation gain: 1,000 feet

Green Trails Maps:  Mountain Loop Highway  no. 111SX

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; practice Leave No Trace principles

 

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Milky silty glacier-fed Suiattle River.

Hikers looking for a late season long wilderness hike need only look to the Suiattle River Trail. Much of the way is at a low elevation guaranteeing snow-free hiking late and early in the season. While snow is accumulating in the high country early this year—the Suiattle River Trail remains snow free and ready to hike now.  Chances are really good too that you won’t be sharing this trail with too many fellow hikers this time of the year. You will however be sharing it with some elk and other wild critters–so keep your camera at hand. And if for some reason no big beasties make an appearance, the monstrous old trees along the way will leave you captivated..

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.

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Majestic primeval forest lines the trail.

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.

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Misty autumn morning along the Suiattle River Trail.

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.orgSnohomish-NEW

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

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