Old Government Trail–Follow in the footsteps of long gone miners and adventurers

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 4.0 miles

High Point: 2,450 feet

Elevation gain: 400 feet

Difficulty: difficult

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest (

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required

Access: : From Granite Falls, follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 31 miles to Barlow Pass and trailhead located on your left.

Good to know: dog-friendly, historic, solitude, trail less traveled

A good trail choice for the waning (and raining) days of fall, the Old Government Trail at Barlow Pass is slightly used path into the past. Once used by miners traveling from Silverton to Monte Cristo, this old trail began to fall into disuse once the Mountain Loop Highway was constructed. The Forest Service hasn’t maintained it in years, but you can still follow a small portion of this old and historic path. The tread is still in decent shape, but expect to hop over a fair amount of fallen trees and use caution on the old puncheon as much of it is rotting, mossy, and dilapidated. Other than that, have fun heading back into the past on this interesting trail.

The hike starts from the parking area at Barlow Pass, once the site of a Forest Service Guard Station. A side trail immediately branches out left to follow the old railroad grade that once connected Monte Cristo to Everett. You’ll have an opportunity to explore that on the return. After about .3 mile and 100-plus feet of climbing, you’ll come to a junction. Head left onto the Old Government Trail.

The way is fairly easy to follow at first, skirting above the Barlow Cut before entering a thick forest of century-old fire scarred snags and remnant old growth giants. Much of the surrounding forest went up in flames in 1905, sparked by a locomotive heading to the mines of Monte Cristo. After about 2.0 miles you’ll come to a creek crossing which should also at this time of year be displaying a nice little waterfall. Beyond this point the trail is extremely brushy and difficult to continue following.

Instead retrace your steps about 1.5 miles looking for an unsigned trail leading right. If you find it, follow it for a very short distance downhill to the old railroad bed. Turn left and follow the old rail line through the Barlow Cut and back to the trailhead for a nice little variation to this historic and off-the-beaten path hike

For detailed information on hikes off of the Mountain Loop Highway, check out my new Day Hiking North Cascades 2nd Edition

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