Friday, September 18, 2009

Boulder River

Boulder River
Location: Boulder River Wilderness, Washington
Duration: 1 Day
Season: Year-round
Distance: ~ 7 miles, round trip
Difficulty: Easy

Boulder River 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. This trip also falls within the Boulder Wilderness area of this forest which was established in 1984, with 49,000 acres of land. It includes six peaks that are above 5,600 feet in elevation. With an old Lookout on Three Fingers, lots of sheer rock cliffs on surrounding mountains and a total of about 25 trail miles.
Boulder Wilderness is the only virgin valley with old growth forest left in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Sitting on the western boundary of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, it has the ice-clad summits of Whitehorse Mountain and Three Fingers, to the dense, mossy, old growth forests of the valley. 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.
As for the trip, Boulder River Trail was once a Forest Service trail over Tupso Pass to Canyon Creek. Also, being the shortest route at that time, up to Three Fingers Fire Lookout, the trail is now abandoned from Boulder Ford to Tupso Pass.
The trail begins on an old railroad-logging road. Traveling along the road/trail there are signs of old trees that were used to build the original road. About 3/4 mile in the road ends and you enter into a magnificent old growth forest. This marks the start of the Boulder Wilderness Area. The trail is very rooty and rocky, rolling up and down as you travel along with the river on your right.
The first of the two waterfalls are in about 1-1/4 miles, where there is a nice bench to sit for a view of the double waterfalls. There are several side paths that lead down about 100 feet to the river. One of the only two mountains, Mt. Ditney, is visible just after the falls on your right, and Three Fingers, which is at the end of the trail. As you travel through the old growth forest, one can't help but ogle at the huge Cedar and Fir trees. Over the years, quite a few have fallen to the ground.
The second waterfall is less than a mile further down the trail. At about 2 1/2 miles in, there is a huge old growth cedar down across the trail at least 5 feet in diameter. You have to scramble over, under, or around it. At this point, Boulder River goes through a gorge. After the huge log there are numerous fallen trees that block your way. Most of the creeks flowing into the river are forded using trees for bridges. These trees can be slippery. There is also a rockslide across the trail, which leads you on the side of a cliff, so caution is needed when navigating through here.
The trail winds down to the river about 4 1/4 miles from the trailhead, where there are a few campsites along the river. You can look up river and see Three Fingers or look across the river and see the flags for the trail on the other side. The trail ends here at Boulder Ford.
NOTE: Use caution if crossing during spring thaw. A faint trail does continues on up to Tupos Pass from the other side of the river.
Directions: Take Highway 530 east to Arlington; drive 19.8 miles, to French Creek Road # 2010. Turn right follow road for 3.6 miles to the end of the road. Boulder River Trailhead is there.

For a map, pictures and more info click on Boulder River

See you on the trail,

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