Location: SR 530 Darrington
Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks
Roundtrip: 11.0 miles
Elevation gain: 120 feet
Contact: Snohomish County Parks
Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway no. 111SX
Notes: Dogs allowed on leash
Access: From Exit 208 on I-5 (Arlington) travel east on SR 530 for 26.5 miles to Swede Heaven Road junction. Turn left and proceed .5 mile to trail and very limited parking. Alternatively you can park at the junction of SR 530 and Swede Heaven Road and walk a pleasant half mile to the trailhead. If you care to start your hike from the Darrington end, find the trailhead near Railroad Avenue.
Good to know: snow free winter hiking; historic; dog-friendly; kid-friendly; open to mountain bikes
Get on board the Whitehorse Trail; eastern Snohomish County’s emerging long distance rail trail. Like Snohomish County’s 30-mile long Centennial Trail, the Whitehorse Trail promises to be popular with hikers, bicyclists, runners and equestrians. But unlike the Centennial Trail which travels north-south along the suburban fringe of the county, the Whitehorse Trail travels west-east into the wilder, rugged interior of the county. Traveling 27 miles from Arlington to Darrington, much of this trail runs alongside the free flowing North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. Currently, only the easternmost 6 miles are maintained. The westernmost 5 miles are open, but rough. The rest of the trail is closed, but set to open by late this year. The section through the Oso Landslide should be open this spring.
The eastern reaches of this trail, described here offer some of the best scenery along the entire trail. Enjoyable year round, winter is an especially appealing time with a backdrop of snowy mountains and a roaring Stilly River at your side.
From Swede Heaven Road, head east into thick forest. Soon come to a bridged crossing of Moose Creek near its confluence with the North Fork Stilly. About a mile farther come to Squire Creek, crossing it on an attractive trestle. Just beyond, finally catch some glimpses of the North Fork Stilly. Push on though, for the river eventually fully reveals itself. Brushing right up against the rippling waterway enjoy excellent views of Mount Higgins, Round Mountain, and Segelsen Ridge.
The trail continues eastward across the grounds of the Darrington Bluegrass Music Park. In sunny weather the ground’s lawns invite resting and napping. But don’t lounge too long for there is more trail to travel. The Whitehorse Trail continues towards Darrington crossing a power line swath before reentering forest and traversing lush wetlands. Enjoy nice views here of surrounding peaks including the trail’s namesake, imposing glacier-clad 6,852-foot Whitehorse Mountain.
Approaching town, the trail edges up against a logging yard before it terminates near an old Forest Service barn. Begin the five and a half mile journey back to your vehicle or walk a few minutes down Price Street to visit the Darrington Ranger Station before making your return.
For information on lodging and other attractions near the Whitehorse Trail visit www.snohomish.org
For more information on other snow free hiking destinations in Western Washington, consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck (Mountaineers Books)