I’ve always been a little reluctant to run in the North Cascades. It’s a drive from Seattle; I generally don’t like to spend more time driving to and from the run than I’ll spend running. Plus, the I-90 corridor has so many amazing trails “just up the road” from me. Luke swears by the North Cascades, though. I made a half-hearted attempt to convince him to run some of Section I of the PCT, but he threw out some other options that just sounded too interesting. The winner ended up being a river valley run up the Seattle River Trail. And a winner it definitely was!Luke: “Running miles or vert?” Me: “My head says vert, but my heart says miles.” We were going for runnable miles with this route, but unexpectedly ended up with both.
The Suiattle River Trail trailhead is out near Darrington. The Suiattle River Road had been closed due to washouts for years, up until this past October. It’s about 23 miles to the trailhead on the road, which is about five miles paved and 18 miles dirt. My small FWD hatchback pulled it off, but a car with higher clearance will probably be a little easier. For a new road, it’s got some pretty serious potholes already.
From the trailhead, we went out along the Suiattle River Trail. Tons of old growth tress, mossy rocks, and wild orchids. We kept on the rolling trail for about six miles until we hit the junction with the PCT, where we turned north. Three more miles put us at the junction with a trail heading up to Miners Ridge (and Image Lake). This trail was a collection of switchbacks with solid climbing. We didn’t see ANY snow until just over 5000′, which is just nuts for early May (although this was south facing). The patchy snow we saw after that was a bit difficult to pass at times, mostly due to the frosty top which made it difficult to dig in with our shoes. The top of the ridge was covered in thick, soft snow. It was a relatively short, but slow (due to post-holing) trek to the Miners Ridge Lookout along the ridge.
There was plenty of water along the way (got to put my new Steripen to use). The “flat” part of the trail along the Suiattle River and the PCT wasn’t entirely flat. The rolling definitely hurt a lot more on the way back to the car. Lots of short, slow climbs. The trail was in great shape, thanks to WTA and PCTA work!
A Few More Sights
I forgot to bring my camera, so credit to Luke for all the shots!
A great, tough route. About 27 or 28 miles with about 6000′ feet of climbing. This will be faster once the snow melts out – we definitely invested a lot of time into crossing the frosty snow on the trail. Lots of water, so should be good to do in the summer, too.