October 5, 1998
Where to find fall colors
The big leaf maples are beginning to turn bright yellow. The vine maples will start turning red next, along with the huckleberry bushes, then cottonwoods. Just about any country road in Snohomish County yields good fall foliage this time of year. Here are some pretty weekend drives to take to appreciate the changing of the seasons, and some low-land hikes to take along the way. (Hikes are excerpted from "Hiking Snohomish County," by Ken Wilcox, published by Northwest Wild Books. Available at the Snohomish County Visitor Information and local bookstores.) Note: Forest Service trails require Trail Park Passes, also available at the Visitor Information Center or any Forest Service Ranger Station.
The Mountain Loop Highway starts in Arlington and goes east along Highway 530 into the National Forest where it loops back along Highway 92 to Granite Falls. The trip takes about 3 hours without stops but you'll want to stop to enjoy the scenery and recreational opportunities along the way.
Here are some recommended hikes on the Mountain Loop:
- Fortson Mill Ponds & North Fork Stilly Trail is a mile or half mile roundtrip, depending on your destination. It will take 1-2 hours and has no elevation gain. From Arlington take Highway 530 east to Fortson Mill Road, shortly after milepost 43. Turn north (left) onto Fortson Mill Rd. and park at the end of the pavement in .2 mile. A small footbridge crosses the pond's inlet stream and a short railroad bridge crosses the dammed outlet. The large pond may have better wildlife viewing.
- Boulder River Trail is 2.4 to 8 miles roundtrip, depending on your destination, and takes 2-6 hours and gains 100-600 feet in elevation, It is an old-growth forest and a lovely river walk with waterfalls. From Arlington, take Hwy. 530 east to milepost 41 and turn south (right) onto USFS Rd. 2010. aka French Creek Rd. Drive 3.7 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. After 4 miles of forest hike, the way ends at a ford crossing of the river but an unmaintained trail continues to a summit lookout on Three Fingers Mountain.
- Old Robe Trail is 3.5 miles roundtrip, takes 2-3 hours and gains 200 feet. The trail is an adventurous riverside trek, including views of whitewater rapids and short forays into abandoned railroad tunnels build for the Monte Cristo Railroad in 1890. Take the Mountain Loop Highway east from Granite Falls and park on the shoulder at milepost 7.1 near the red brick trail sign across from Green Mt. Rd.
- Stevens Pass Greenway starts in Everett on I-5 and passes through the towns of Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index on US Hwy. 2 then crosses scenic Stevens Pass to the east. Then it brings you back over the North Cascades Scenic Highway.
Recommended hikes along the Greenway on Highway 2:
- Wallace Falls Trail is 4-8 miles roundtrip, takes 2-5 hours and gains 800-1,400 feet. It is the most famous waterfall in Snohomish County. To reach the trailhead, take Hwy. 2 about 30 miles east of Everett to Gold Bar and turn left at the park sign. On the trail, keep right for the steeper trail, and views of the falls at .3 mile, .5 mile from the bridge.
- Heybrook Lookout is 2.2 miles roundtrip, takes 2-3 hours and gains 900 feet. Take Hwy. 2 east from Index to milepost 37.6. The hike is moderately steep but short and the ridge affords great views of Mt. Index, Mt. Baring and Bridal Veil Falls.
- Troublesome Creek is a .6 mile loop that takes only 1 hour and gains 100 feet. It's a great family woods walk next to a creek in the mountains. Take Hwy. 2 east to milepost 35.7 and turn north onto North Fork Rd. signed for Index, and drive just over 11 miles to the entrance of Troublecreek campground.
For more information on walks and hikes in Snohomish County, call the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, (425)348-5802 or toll free at (888)338-0976 or visit www.snohomish.org on the web. The Snohomish County Visitor Information Center is open 9-5 daily and is located at 101-128th Street just of I-5 at exit 186.