Mileage: 6-21+ miles RT (we did 14.1 miles)
Elevation Gain/Highest: 2500/4500ft
Map: Green Trails Darrington No. 78, GAIA (my stats)
1/14/2017 We visited this area for the first time last year on New Year’s Eve as a day hike and it holds a special memory for both of us. Not able to return on the actual date this year and both of us wanting to try some snow camping, we headed up for an overnight so we could have time to explore the ridge more. The weather forecast was perfect for a night out in the cold.
FR 18 had plowed compact snow for most of the 3 miles in, not a problem for 4 wheel drive. We parked at the Sno-Park and packed up for our hike. The hike in was just that, a hike in. The trail was groomed and we didn’t need to put our snowshoes on the whole way. There wasn’t as much snow on the trees like last year, but the intermittent views of Whitehorse Mountain, Round Mountain an Mt. Higgins were just as lovely.
We left FR 18 at about 6.2 miles in and headed up FR 1855 to the right. This does a long switchback and then puts you up above that junction in about a mile or so. The road is wide here and there is a viewpoint pullout that is just the perfect spot for a snow divot or camp. We arrived about 2:30 and decided it was a good time to start making our shelter while we had daylight. We have had the whole trip to ourselves so far.
We dug out an area for our cave and put a tarp over the top. The sun began to glow in the sky and we finished with all our preparations just in time for dinner.
We had thought about taking a moonlight stroll but we were both tired and full from dinner so we settled down for the night. It was a good thing my bf had thought to bring a little strobe light for the front of our shelter because there were a few snowmobiles that zoomed by in the dark. We were off the road but you never know!
Sleeping fairly well through the night, the sun awoke us coming up beyond Whitehorse Mountain. Our goal was to spend the morning up on the ridge, so no sleeping in for us.
I loved the way that the moon hung out over Mt. Higgins and Skadulgwas Peak as we had breakfast and got ourselves ready for a quick jaunt up to see what could be seen from the summit.
We continued up FR1855 about .25 miles to the first abandoned road we saw and hung a right around the southern knob of Segelsen Ridge. This was where we got to use our snowshoes as it was not groomed for the snowmobilers and their tracks stop a short ways in.
Rounding the hill, we could see our destination above us. Since Dan Nelson published his Snowshoe Routes of Washington, there have been some changes to the ridge, including cell and radio towers. Oh well, I wanted to check out the view anyway.
Just below the summit, we headed cross country up the slope, zigzagging through the trees until we came out on another groomed road. I guess you can actually drive all the way up here now. This was probably where the snowmobilers were headed last night.
We walked around this part of the ridge for awhile, taking in views of Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, and a good portion of the North Cascade range.
We decided our goal for next year would be to leave much earlier so we could camp up here!
For our trip down, we cut down the slope of the knob off trail until we were back down at the junction with the abandoned road off FR1855.
Back at camp, we dismantled and filled in our shelter and packed up for the trip back to the car.
For the trip down, we made two big cuts off “trail”, skipping the switchbacks in the road and shaving off a few miles. We dropped down straight from our camp to the junction with FR 18 and then a few miles down from there, we cut down to hit FR 18 again about half mile from the parking area. The grade is moderate but there was a creek cut deep into the slope as you approach the road that we had to navigate around. You can’t miss seeing it on the way up with all the downed trees crosshatching it where it meets the road.
We saw a few more snowmobilers out for a Sunday adventure, otherwise it was a pretty quiet day. We were back and driving away by 2pm, just enough time to stop in Darrington at the River Time Brewery for ciders. This may turn out to be an annual trip!
Directions: From I-5, drive east on SR 530 towards Darrington 24.5 miles. Turn left on Swede Heaven Road (at the Whitehorse Mercantile). In 2 miles, keep right up FR 18 to the snowline. There is a snopark 3 miles in at 1200ft.