Monday, July 13, 2009

Barlow Point

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Duration: 1 Day
Season: Spring - Fall
Distance: ~ 2.5 miles, round-trip
Difficulty: Easy

Barlow Point is located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest of Washington State. This immense forest ranges from Mt. Rainier National Park north to the Canadian border. MBSNF includes over 1,711,241 acres of prime forestland, eight Wilderness areas, and the Skagit Wild and Scenic River, which hosts the largest population of wintering bald eagles in the United States.
In this National Forest are two of Washington's volcanoes, Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak, and there are some 1500 miles of hiking trails to explore. This vast area is divided into four ranger districts, with several visitor centers to serve the needs of everyone from mountaineers challenging glacier-hung peaks in the backcountry to touring families taking advantage of some of the most dramatic scenery accessible by car.
All travelers should be aware that the Cascade Mountains create their own weather. Check local weather stations and pack for a wide variety of conditions, from sun to rain, to the possibility of year-round snow at higher elevations.
The Barlow Point trail is located in the Darrington Ranger District which includes 570,000 acres of majestic mountains, glacier fed rivers and ice-capped peaks to explore.
The history of Monte Cristo dates back to the 1890's, when gold was discovered and a railroad was built along the South Fork of the Stillaquamish River, later to be used as a passenger train. The train brought people from all over to the Big Four Inn, where they could hike to the only ice caves in the area.
The Mountain Loop Highway enables people to travel from Granite Falls to Darrington. While driving the loop road you can experience a wide variety of attractions. From old mines, the old chimney at Big Four, avalanches, beaver ponds, waterfalls and slow moving rivers. Even the historical guard station on the Suiattle River still remains.
As for the trail, Barlow Point trailhead is also the trailhead for the Old Government Trail, which splits off a half mile in. The trail was an earlier route over Barlow Pass to Monte Cristo. For the first half mile the trail goes up and down, twisting to and fro. There is an old, rotten cedar puncheon along this section of the trail, followed by two tight switchbacks.
Wildlife such as Chipmunks and Red Racer Snakes can be seen along the rock outcrops on the trail. Keep to your right on all the trail divides, there are three in all. The second divide leads to the old railroad grade, seen down below the trail. The third divide is for the Old Government Trail.
The Old Government Trail runs west, parallel with the Mountain Loop Highway, for three miles or so. The next section of the trail is one of the steepest around, gaining 900 feet in less than a half mile. The trail runs parallel with the Mountain Loop Highway, then after 13 switchbacks and a long, winding stretch through the forest, then up and over a ridge.
The forest has a high, dense, tree top canopy, with very little brush growing on the forest floor, which is most unusual for this area. The trail then runs parallel with the South Fork of the Sauk River, on the north side. Contouring along the hillside are trail sections without the switchbacks. Some dead old growth trees show an unbelievable spiral growth pattern along the trail.
There are three more sets of switchbacks on the remainder of the trail. The last set of eight switchbacks are very tight and lead up through some rock outcrops, which are on either side of the trail, then the trail drops down to Barlow Point.
At one time, an old lookout stood here, but unfortunately, there are no remains to mark its one time existence. Barlow Point is a rock outcrop on the hillside looking westward at an elevation of 3,300 feet. Views include Big Four Mt., Halls Peak, Mt. Dickerman, Twin Peaks, Sheep Mountain, Mountain Loop Highway, and Stillagaumish Valley below. Use caution on the rock outcrops they can be slippery when wet.

For a map, pictures and more info click on Barlow Point

See you on the trail,

All Day Energy Runners

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