Monday, August 8, 2011

Mountain Loop Highway - August 2011

We woke up on Sunday to a perfectly clear and sunny day, so the motorcycle came out of the garage and we set out as soon as I finished getting peaches into the dryer and laundry on the clothesline.
The highway is very scenic as it follows the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River from Granite Falls to Barlow Pass - a distance of about 30 miles.  On the other side, it follows the White Chuck River and then the Sauk River into Darrington, and then the North Fork of the Stilly into Arlington.
Most of the 100 mile loop follows a river through the forest.
The first hiking opportunity is about 3 miles East of Granite Falls, where a short trail takes you to the falls that gives the town its name.  One of the longest fish ladders in the country helps fish go past the falls to their breeding grounds upstream.
One of the most famous Mt Loop Highway trails is the easy one mile hike through the forest to the glaciers on Big Four Mountain.  Ice caves begin forming in June or July.  It is a popular hike and quite busy in the summer months. 
 The Verlot Ranger Station is located on the highway about 11 miles from Granite Falls.  Parking passes for the hiking trail heads are sold here.  They also have a nice selection of maps and books.
Green Gables Store is located near the Verlot Campground and Pillaguamish Nature Trails, a private camping club.
Reservations necessary for the campgrounds along Mt. Loop.  Lovely camp sites right on the river make Verlot a very popular campground.
For more rustic camping and fishing, just go further out on the highway.
After Barlow Pass, the road becomes gravel, with a few potholes, but not bad for a gravel road.  There are some steep places and some loose gravel, but we made it fine on a street bike.  A car would be easier.  Lots of hiking opportunities all along the highway.
Old Growth Douglas Fir
Lush farm land and pastures between Darrington and Arlington as Highway 530 brings you around the circle and back toward Granite Falls.
If you like barns, this is the highway that abounds in picturesque barns.