Mountainous landscapes, peaceful waterways, and plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the great outdoors await you along Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County. This itinerary will take you to sights that are accessible by driving a portion of the loop that can be reached without traversing the rocky backroads of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Although the backroads can offer remote camping and beautiful trails, they can be difficult to navigate in some vehicles. Drive this route as a day trip or, if time allows, spend the night at one of the campgrounds along the way. Whether relishing a leisurely Sunday drive or enjoying an active weekend hiking in the mountains, the Mountain Loop Highway will be sure to be an incredible adventure.
Granite Falls Fish Ladder
Start your adventure at the Granite Falls waterfall and fish ladder. A short walk will lead you down to the 49 feet of vertical falls which consist of three drops. Surrounded by sheer rock cliffs, the falls are the main attraction, however, a real treat is to see the salmon working hard to reach the spawning habitat located above the falls. Constructed in 1954, the fish ladder has helped coho, chum, Chinook, pink, and steelhead species reach their spawning grounds through a system of 50 steps consisting of 51 pools. The pools lead to a 300-foot tunnel which leads the fish upstream of the falls. After enjoying the falls, take a short walk down the Stillaguamish River before looping back and continuing to your next stop.
River Meadows County Park
Enjoy an easy stroll along the 1.8-mile trail at River Meadows County Park which meanders next to the flowing waters of the Stillaguamish River. Kids will love to skip rocks along the riverbanks. Games of pick-up soccer or flag football can be enjoyed on the grassy fields next to the trail. Plenty of space to picnic, play with the pup or wander make this county park a destination to stay for a few hours or enjoy the entire day soaking up river life.
For a quick leg stretch, hop out on the Whitehorse Trail. The Whitehorse Trail spans slightly over 27 miles between Arlington and Darrington. This trail is perfect for all ability levels as there is very little elevation gain. Walkers and bikers can decide how far they want to journey before turning around. If you packed your mountain bikes, this trail is a fun one to explore. Mountain vistas and quaint landscapes of farm pastures and forests offer a nice break from the road. The Whitehorse Trail passes the town of Oso where visitors can pay their respects at the Oso Memorial constructed to honor the victims of the 2014 mudslide that killed 43 people and destroyed 49 homes when a portion of the hill collapsed outside of the town.
Squire Creek Park
If your schedule allows, enjoy camping at Squire Creek Park and Campground. Located close to the town of Darrington and with numerous trails nearby, Squire Creek Park is a great stopping point for those who want to explore the Mountain Loop a bit more. Located in an old-growth forest, 29 camping sites offer campers a chance to recharge. Walk the nature trail to Squire Creek or, if visiting in the fall, try to spot spawning salmon. Enjoying a longer stay on the Mountain Loop Highway has the added benefits of exploring more of the longer trails that would be hard to accomplish with only one day of adventuring. If staying for a weekend or longer, add hikes such as Lake 22, Heather Lake, Lime Kiln, Big Four Mountain or Old Robe Canyon to your hiking itinerary.
Nestled on the Sauk River in the North Cascades Mountain valley, Darrington is steeped in history. Before being incorporated as a town in 1945, Darrington was a popular camping spot for prospectors who were searching for gold in surrounding areas. Park the car and meander through the town taking in mountain views. Grab a hardy lunch or handcrafted beer at River Time Brewery which features sandwiches, nachos, or flatbread pizzas with an assortment of unique toppings. If the weather allows, enjoy your meal in the outdoor seating area and take in the beautiful scenery.
Backman County Park
End your adventure with a picnic at Backman County Park. If camping was in your plans and you packed your inflatable kayaks, Backman County Park is a five-minute drive from Squire Creek Campground and a perfect place to launch your kayak for an evening paddle. This park is a great place to hop out, stretch your legs, or grab a snack and a fishing pole and enjoy the views of the Sauk River.
The Mountain Loop Highway in beautiful Snohomish County offers something for everyone. From hiking and biking to enjoying a handcrafted beer and taking in river and mountain vistas, the Mountain Loop Highway is a delight to all types of adventurers. Even if you only visit for the day, this serene mountain drive will have you planning another adventure soon.