There are certain phrases that are sure to grab any hiker’s attention: old growth forests and waterfalls rank high among them. The hillside that runs along the Boulder River is well stocked in both. With a relatively flat, straightforward path, trekking the Boulder River Trail is an adventure that is suitable for the whole family (including the dog).
What Makes It Great
This hike has something to offer year-round: wildflowers in the spring, cool shade in the summer, splashes of fiery colors in the fall, and ethereal icicles in winter (the trail can be rougher going in winter months, but thanks to its lower elevation – the high point is 1550 feet – the trail usually gets less snow than other popular hiking trails. Check current conditions here).
The journey is 8.6-miles round-trip if you take the trail to its end, or just three miles round-trip if you’re content with turning around after tagging the first falls. The hike begins along a wide, flat path – an old railroad bed – through dense groves of gnarled second growth trees dripping with bright green mosses. About a mile in, you’ll begin to hear the sound of the rushing river as you enter the Boulder River Wilderness. A few minutes later, you’ll actually see it.
The first waterfalls (a smaller one, then a bigger one just a bit further on) are about 1.5 miles in. This is the scenic highlight of the trip, and many people who are looking for something short and sweet make it the final destination. It is also possible to camp here; you’ll be soothed by the sounds of the river and its waterfalls all night.
But the next 2.8 miles of trail are well worth the extra effort, if you’re up for it. The hike continues along the east bank of the river, a tributary of the glacially-fed Stillaguamish River’s North Fork, as it goes deeper into the primary rainforest: Picture seas of primordial-looking ferns and huge firs, hemlocks, and western cedars that are upwards of seven centuries old. The trail peters out in a grove of grand trees nestled right by the river. Make sure to pack a lunch, because this makes for a fantastic picnic spot.
The trail can get muddy in places (be sure to wear waterproof boots if it has recently rained). A couple of spots may also require some more interesting footwork in order to skirt around fallen trees. But, overall, the route is very passable throughout – thanks to the work of the Washington Trails Association, who visits in order to repair damage every year.
Who is Going to Love It
Tree lovers, water lovers, and families looking for a beautiful hike that everyone can enjoy.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The parking lot, which is 3.7 miles down the dirt French Creek Road, holds about fifteen cars. The Trailhead is at the end of the lot.