Hike of the Week for Friday, November 11, 2011
Soar above the Forks of the Sky
Article and photo by Craig Romano
The hike is exhilarating - and the view is breathtaking from the Index Town Wall.
Location: Skykomish River Valley
Land Agency: Washington State Parks
Roundtrip: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
Green Trails Map: Index, WA-No. 142 (trail not shown)
Contact: Wallace Falls State Park (360) 793-0420; www.parks.wa.gov
Access: From Everett follow US 2 east for 36 miles. Turn left onto North Fork Road (Index-Galena Road) and continue for 1.0 mile. Turn left onto 5th street. Cross river into Index and proceed to second stop sign turning left onto Index Ave. Follow for .3 mile (road bends south to become 2nd Street) to stop sign. Turn right onto Ave A and follow .6 mile (road becomes Reiter Road) to parking area on right.
Notes: Dogs must be leashed.
The only landmark more stunning and impressive rising above the little town of Index than Mount Index, is the Index Town Wall. Forming a 1,200-foot backdrop of sheer granite cliffs, the Index Town Wall is imposing and awe inspiring. Renown among climbers for its 50-plus routes and some of the best vertical in the Northwest, a not-so-well known hiking trail also leads to its top.
Washington State Parks has acquired much of the wall guaranteeing public access. Part of the Forks of the Sky State Park, this fairly new park consists of over 1,400 acres at the confluence of the Skykomish River and its North Fork. Paddlers, picnickers, and anglers have much to be thankful too with this park. Currently administered by Wallace Falls State Park, a Discover Pass isn’t presently required to park at the trailhead. But that may change and having a pass is a good idea for access to other state parks and to help keep our parks from shutting down.
From the parking area, walk up a service road and immediately cross a set of railroad tracks. Straight ahead a series of climber paths diverge through a new addition of the park, thanks to the Bullitt Foundation. Continue right on the service road (staying off the tracks as it is an active line) listening to climbers clambering above. About a .25 mile from the parking area you’ll come to a picnic table in front of a big steel door in the cliff face. Behind this door is a 200 foot bore created to test a machine used for tunneling under the English Channel.
Locate the trail to the top of the Index Wall to the right of the picnic table at forest edge. While unmarked—it’s obvious. Now begin a steep grunt, ascending nearly 1,300 feet in just over one mile. The trail is fairly well built though, marching up steep slopes; and ducking under, around and over overhanging ledges. The entire way is forested and not exposed. Climbing paths diverge from the main path and you’ll want to avoid these lest ending up in a spot you’d rather not be. Just keep following well placed arrowed signs leading the way.
After 1.2 miles you’ll reach an old rocky skid road that doubles as a creek bed. Stay to the right of a cable fence and follow this rocky route .1 mile to the top of the wall. Exercise extreme caution approaching the edge of the cliff. Then clutch your heart and catch your breath taking in an absolutely amazing view. Gaze directly below at the town of Index perched along the North Fork of the Skykomish River against a dramatic cloud piercing backdrop of Wild Sky Wilderness Peaks; Gunn, Merchant and Baring. Stay for awhile fully mesmerized — you earned this view!
For information on lodging and other attractions near the Index Town Wall, visit www.snohomish.org.