Mileage: 15.8+ miles RT possible (SR 20 to the TH for the summer trail)
Elevation Gain/Highest: 3900/4300ft
Map: Green Trails Lake Shannon No 46, Darrington No. 78
Favorite Eats After Hike: 5 Bs Bakery (closed on Tuesdays).
12/27/2016 I mentioned in my trip report for Sauk Mountain in November that the road to the TH would be a fun snowshoe and I set out today to see if that was true. The avalanche risk was high (and visibility low), so I had no intention of hiking more than 3600ft or so in elevation up the road because of avalanche terrain. I just wanted to spend some time in the snow! On a good day and expert winter skills, you can continue up the summer route past the TH and add another 4.2 miles to your trip.
I met a good friend today who also wanted to have some snow adventure but I forgot to check beforehand if she had snowshoes (doesn’t everybody?). Looked like we would be postholing…
When we got to the turn off for Sauk Mountain Road, there was built up snow and slush so we just turned in and pointed the car out at the junction.
We were looking for miles today and without snowshoes, I opted to start hiking up at this point. We could have driven a bit further up, maybe a half mile or so. Someone with 4 wheel drive could probably get another mile up at least.
The road had a few inches of snow with bare ruts at the beginning, with the snow naturally deepening as we gained elevation. We did put on spikes at about 1000ft just for extra stability. I had poles but my friend did not. Snowshoes would have been perfect at about 1400ft and above.
The snow was off and on with rain for most of our trip and we explored a few side roads off the main one looking for elusive views. The weather cooperated a little and we had a some brief glimpse of the valley and surrounding peaks like Gee and Big Gee. We had to earn them, though, the snow was deep wherever we diverted.
The road switchbacks back and forth, long at first and then tighter and tighter. Plenty of opportunity to cut switchbacks if you wanted to, but there was not a lot of snow on the ground in the trees until above 2000ft.
We arbitrarily set our goal today for 10 miles so when GPS told us we had gone up 5.5 miles (about 2760ft), we called it a good day and headed back down. Our side trips on the way up had added to our miles so by the time we got to the car our total was 9.92 miles RT and almost 2300ft gain in a little less than 6 hours. Not bad considering how much time we spent playing in the snow. 🙂
Directions: From I-5 take exit 208 for HWY 530, signed for Arlington/Darrington. Follow 530 through Darrington, where it Ts with the Mountain Loop Highway. Take a left at the T to stay on 530. Follow 530 north until it ends at Hwy 20, the North Cascades Highway. Make a left (west) onto Hwy 20 toward Burlington, then turn right on the Sauk Mountain Road (FS 1030) at 1.7 miles, just past Rockport State Park.