Hiking: Old Robe Canyon Hike (North Cascades)

When I was young in the mountains, I never wanted to go to the ocean, and I never wanted to go to the desert.I never wanted to go anywhere else in the world, for I was in the mountains. And that was always enough. -Cynthia Rylant

Mountain Loop Highway-0063

A few miles past the town of Granite Falls lies the historic town of Robe, built in 1899 to process limestone hauled on the adjacent Everette-Monte Cristo railway from quarries deep in the Cascade Mountains.

The trail leaves directly from the Mountain Loop Highway and wanders through coniferous forest before switchbacking 350 feet down a ridge to the soggy valley below. Wind your way through wetlands before meeting up with the furiously flowing Stillaguamish River. The old (and largely demolished) town of Robe is located in the area immediately before the canyon entrance. Look for remains of an old brick bridge as you hopscotch your way across feeder streams rushing to join the river.

The canyon is cool and dark, with small waterfalls along the path. Hikers walk along the old railroad bed as the river roars below.

The canyon segment of the railway required boring of six tunnels through the steep canyon walls.  Much of the railroad was built on wooden cribbing at the edge of what the eastern experts referred to as a “trout stream.”  When the November floods swelled the “trout stream” into a thundering torrent of whitewater, the railroad was wiped out.  Starting in 1892 and continuing through the railroad’s demise in 1933, the effort to maintain the rail line required yearly battles to repair damage from rockslides and fall flooding in the canyon.  -Excerpt from the Robe Canyon Historic Park, by the Stillaguamish Citizens’ Alliance

Rockslides within the canyon closed the trail and it is here that hikers with young children should turn around. Those feeling adventurous might venture farther on over the rocks and into the first of three accessible tunnels. Headlamps and proper shoes are a must, as is an abundance of caution and common sense.

 

 

South Fork Stillaguamish River, heading into the canyon.

South Fork Stillaguamish River, heading into the canyon.

Directions:

From the intersection of E. Stanley Street (92) and South Alder Avenue in Granite Falls, follow Alder Avenue (which turns into the Mountain Loop Highway) north for 7.0 miles. The trailhead is located directly south on the highway and is across from Green Mountain Road (NF 41). Look for parked cars and a crumbing brick sign denoting the historic town of Robe.

 

Trip Stats:

-2.4 miles roundtrip. Hikers looking for additional miles may hike beyond the trail closure sign into the train tunnels, however, it is not suitable for children and you do so at your own risk.

-350 feet elevation gain.

 

 

Looking for a great Day Trip? Check out our Mountain Loop Highway feature.

 

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