Location: Suiattle River Road
Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Roundtrip: 10.0 miles
Elevation gain: 4,600 feet
Green Trails Maps: Mountain Loop Highway Map 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 22.8 miles to trailhead at road’s end.
It’s an arduous climb mostly through dense forest to an old lookout site with stunning views over the unbroken virgin forests of the Suiattle River Valley and to the icy north face of Glacier Peak. One of the closest vantages to the 10,541 glacier-cloaked volcano without actually being on it, you’ll have to work hard however to get it. But you’ll probably be sharing this wilderness summit with no one else.
Head down the Suiattle River Trail a couple of hundred feet to the Sulphur Mountain Trail taking off left. On good tread immediately start heading for the sky. You’ll lose a few feet dropping into a ravine to cross a creek—then it’s once again upward. The trail is lightly maintained. You’ll have a few blowdowns to negotiate and a couple of brushy spots—but generally the way is in good shape.
The climb is relentless. Up, up, up- no rest for the weary. At about 3.5 miles, the grade relents a little. Forest thins, heather meadows begin and the wild surrounding countryside is unveiled as the trail attains the lofty ridge crest. After five of the hardest miles you’ve ever hiked, rejoice- you’ve reached the 6,200-foot knoll on Sulphur Mountain that was used as a fire lookout back in the 1930s (but probably never housed a structure).
Amid meadows that burst with flowers in the summer, seize your scenic rewards. You’ve earned them! Directly east lie the craggy conglomerate of peaks of Sulphur Mountain including the 6,735-foot summit (an objective for experienced scramblers). Directly north is Sulphur Mountain Lake snug in a tight basin 800-feet below (an objective for crazy scramblers). To the west is Lime Ridge and its circuit of lakes. And directly across the Suiattle River is big beautiful Glacier Peak. You can’t much closer to it than being on it. Enjoy the view and then prepare your knees for a taxing descent.
For information on lodging and other attractions near the Suiattle River visit www.snohomish.org
For more information on this hike and others in the Suiattle River Valley and throughout the area, check out my best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books).