Suiattle River Trail

Kim wanted to get out for a hike. It looked like rain on both sides of the mountains. Why not head to a rainy forest on a rainy day? Since the Suiattle River is about Kim's favorite place of all it was an easy choice. I had not hiked the trail prior to the 2003 road washout. During the road closure Kim and I rode bikes to the end and hiked the trail a mile up to the Milk Creek Trail and then did Sulphur Mountain. After the road was finally reopened after more than a decade we hiked  about 2 miles up to a spot where you can get down to the river. It was time for a longer trip on the trail. When I left home at 6:45 am Doppler radar showed rain all the way from the coast to downtown Seattle and heading north. We thought we might get started before it reached the trail. On Mother's Day morning traffic was very light. Up to Arlington then east to Darrington. From there north to the Suiattle River. The Teanaway and Yakima Rivers east of the mountains had been chocolate brown the week before. The often brown Suiattle was running clear. It is 23 miles to the end. The first 10 are paved, the next 13 are gravel. The first few miles of gravel had a lot of pot holes. The last part was in much better shape.

We arrived at the trailhead at 9:30 am. It was 48 degrees and overcast. Chilly but still dry. There was one other car in the lot. We packed up and were on the trail by 9:44 am. We immediately saw yellow violets. The wildflower show began and lasted almost the entire hike. The trail is gently graded as it follows the Suiattle River upstream. There are a number of ups and downs but they are never steep. Almost immediately is the junction with the trail up Sulphur Mountain. Just before one mile we saw the old route down to the missing bridge over the Suiattle River and the start of the Milk Creek Trail. The route is very overgrown now.  The Forest Service plans to relocate the bridge so this route will likely never be used again. There are some very large trees along the route. Between the trees, the flowers, and occasional views to the river this forested trail remains interesting.

Kim first noticed the calypso orchids. Bright pink flowers, they really stand out. They are quite small and at a fast pace one could miss them. I've seen many patches of calypso's over the years. This trip had them from start to finish. I can't ever recall seeing so many of them. In many places the calypso orchids were mixed in with yellow violets. Really colorful to see. On the 2014 trip just after the road reopened we hiked in two miles to a spot where you can drop down to river level. This time we passed on by and kept going. We did have a good view of the river from that spot. Along there we saw several good sized patches of blooming bleeding hearts too.

Because of all the big trees this trail is prone to have numerous lowdowns in the winter. It is a stock trail so they all need to be removed to allow horses to use the trail. This winter we were lucky. We stepped over two logs and under a couple more. That was it. The trail is already in fine shape for hiking. There are a number of creek crossings. Canyon Creek is big this time of year and has a wooden suspension bridge high above the water. There is a low wooden bridge not far downstream A log bridge near the start has broken near one end but sill works. The others require some rock hopping. Most had a fair bit of water but are not a problem to get across. Poles were helpful to negotiate the rock hopping.

One feature of this trail is the green. Mosss covers much of the ground and rocks. The forest is thick enough in places to afford minimal underbrush. The green covers most everything. That is one of the major features of this hike. There are few views out. The river itself is mostly in sound but not sight. The forest is the thing, the reason to hike this trail. It also is a route to the Pacific Crest Trail and the high alpine meadows in the Glacier Peak area. Some day I'll follow it up to the meadows. For this day I was just happy to take a very green flower filled forest hike.

We kept waiting for the rain to catch up with us. We waited all day. At times we had actual sunshine. There were a few moments of drizzle. The forest blocked most of the light drizzle. We headed out of the rainy city to a near rain forest in the mountains to find a dry and at times sunny day. Go figure. We took a short break at Apache Camp at the four mile mark. At 6.5 miles we reached campsites and then the bridge over Canyon Creek. It was momentarily sunny there. We had a nice break. Near Apache Camp we passed two backpackers and a dog heading out. That was it for the hike in.

We arrived at Canyon Creek at 2:00 pm 4:15 minutes to hike in. At 2:35 pm we headed back. The hike back was mostly downhill with some ups and downs. The tread is soft. after hard packed roads and trails east of the crest the past few weeks the soft tread of the forest felt much better. Even over a longer distance. I took some photos on the return but far fewer than on the hike in. About 1.5 miles back we met one hiker with two dogs. That was the second and last group seen all day. Maybe it was Mother's Day. Maybe it was the rainy forecast. Either way, we had near total solitude on what is a pretty popular trail. We just took a few short breaks on the way back. At the last one we could look down to the Suiattle River. At a steady pace we made it back to the trailhead at 5:51 pm. We chopped almost exactly one hour off our time hiking in.

We had a little drizzle near the end but nowhere near enough to bother with an umbrella. Though the trail is easy walking we did cover 13 miles for the day. A longer than average trip for me and the longest one Kim has done is some time. Though the grade is very easy it still added up to a little over 1000' of elevation gain in and out. The trail was in much better shape than I was expecting. Only a few trees were down. There was little mud. The creek crossings were not too difficult for springtime. The solitude was most unexpected. Unexpected but much appreciated. Timing is everything. I'm glad to finally have had a good long hike on the Suiattle River Trail. It only took me 35 years to get in done. We had quite a bit of rain on the drive home. Along the gravel part of the road we saw a bear run across. The first bear I have seen in several years. All in all, it was an excellent day to get out for a hike.

Parking Lot
Trail Sign
Yellow Violet
Small Mushroom
Broken Log Bridge
Brown Ribbon
Hooker's Fairybells
Wild Ginger
Calypso Orchid
Forest Walk
Mossy Goodness
Big Mushroom
View To Peaks
Bleeding Hearts
Look At The River
Small White Flower
Forest Solitude
Kim & The Suiattle
Spring Beauty
Easy Creek Crossing
Wider Creek
Kim At Work
More Calypso Orchids
Small Falls
Longer Rock Hop
Overhead Log
A Real Bridge
Green Ground Cover
Canyon Creek Bridge
Canyon Creek
Cascades From Bridge
Green Goodness
View Of Trail
Nice Small Falls
Kim Crosses
Final Calypso Shot
Really Mossy
River Below
Another Spring Beauty
Whitewater River
Mud & Green
Bleeding Hearts Close Up
Mossy Rock
Glacier Peak Wilderness
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017