Mileage: 6.5 miles RT (but you can go for miles)
Elevation Gain/Highest: 170ft/1221ft
Favorite Eats After Hike: North Bend Bar & Grill
Opting for an easy, quiet stroll today, a friend and I drove up the Middle Fork Road near North Bend to wander down the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Trail. This rambling river off the I-90 corridor is a beauty all to itself but also the gateway to places like Goldmeyer Hot Springs, Dutch Miller Gap, Waptus Lake, the Pacific Crest Trail, and many other trails in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I talked about using it as a backdoor to the popular Snow Lake near Snoqualmie Pass last winter. Now that the road to get here has been paved and the area rejuvenated, it rightly sees a steady stream of outdoor loving guests.
We parked in the very large parking lot (also paved) and set out a little before 9am from the main trailhead for the trail. The day was already warming up, but we knew trees would keep us cooler than a more exposed path. There wera number of cars in the lot but the trail is long so we weren’t worried about being elbow to elbow with others. We did know that mountain bikes are welcome on old numbered days, so we were mindful we would be sharing the trail today with more than hikers.
From the trailhead, it was just 500ft or so to a footbridge suspended over the smooth rolling water. Things have been so dry lately; the river was low and glassy.
I can imagine during the spring it rages quite a bit more. On the other side, we met a junction and turned east or left for our trail today (right takes you towards Pratt Lake that I talk about in THIS trip report).
Here, the trail was carved into the river gorge for a distance with solid rock to our right and the river meandering to our left. Garfield Mountain presented itself proudly in front of us, bare of the winter white it wore the last time I saw it from our Snow Lake approach. I’ve seen pictures during the winter when it stands 5,519 ft over the river valley looking quite regal in white.
After the trail leaves the river edge and begins to move into the forest a bit, we could see a steep granite cliff to our right rising out of the trees. Stegosaurus Butte is its name and it is a short scramble off this trail if we had turned right at the junction. I plan to be up there next weekend to hopefully complete my course with the Mountaineers (it’s considered a S1/T1 and I need the easiest thing possible with my injury). But that will be for another trip report…
We continued on the trail through the forest, admiring the different varieties of ferns, towering Devil’s Club and a plethora of berry bushes barren of summer’s spoils crowding the trail. This would definitely be a tasty trail in July!
There were footbridges and puncheons over some small streams but otherwise the terrain was easy and smooth.
The trail gains about 170ft from the trailhead but our overall gain was about 450ft of up and down. A good portion of the trail was old railroad grade and if you keep your eye out you will spot some remnants of long ago iron work.
About 2.5 miles in, there was a wide washout but it does have some tread repair so it wasn’t too rocky. Just after this point the forest opens up and we could see another view of the volcanic rock face of Garfield on the other side of the river, a mountain with 5 separate peaks and several smaller crags.
We wandered another half mile or so to where a bend in the river has seen another devastating washout that has removed a good section of the trail but it has been rerouted further into the forest. After stopping for a small snack, we then headed back to the car. If we had continued another 3 miles or so, we would have met with the second trailhead and Dingford Creek Falls but that was more than we wanted to venture today.
The trail had many more visitors as we made our way back: families with small ones, two bikers and a group of horse riders out enjoying a Sunday stroll. When we reached the suspension bridge and junction, we went down to the shore of the river.
Here there was a nice wide spot to view the bridge and one could take a dip in the refreshing water. After a short stay, we were back to the cars at 12:45pm. I can’t wait to return next week for a view from the top of the butte!
Check out my Latest Trip reports for some of my most recent hikes or head over to my I-90 page for other hikes in this area!
Directions: Drive east on I-90 from Seattle to exit 34 or Edgewick Road. Turn left over the overpass onto 468th Avenue past the truck stop and gas station area to the T junction with the Middle Fork Road (FR 56). The sign is on the left in trees and easy to miss. Turn right, pass a school and continue up the Middle Fork Road for 11.8 miles to the large Middle Fork trailhead parking area on the right (there are several times you will go left but it is still FR 56). Although the road is mostly paved, there is constant construction due to washouts in one particular section at the river’s bend. It is best to check conditions at Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road Slope Stabilization. Privy available and NW Forest Pass is required.