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Mount Higgins

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Rising above the pastoral farmlands of the North Fork Stillaguamish River valley between Arlington and Darrington is impressive Mount Higgins, with its folded strata of metamorphosed sandstone and shale. It's as if Atlas himself crunched this landscape into a giant accordion. Hum a Cajun tune or two and two-step up the steep trail to the vertigo-inducing former lookout site, where you can peer straight down to the Stilly or out across to rows of jagged and glacier-clad peaks. Chances are you'll have this airy outpost all to yourself.

The trail begins on a decommissioned logging road through heavily harvested Washington State Department of Natural Resources land. Real trail is reached in 0.6 mile and after steeply gaining 500 feet. First, traverse a brushy steep slope scarred by clear-cutting, with good views of the valley below to help keep your mind off of this mangled management of our state land.

In 1 mile enter the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (elev. 2400 ft). No longer side-sloping, the trail now heads up in a more direct fashion-steep at times through a luxuriant stand of mature Douglas Fir. Big, beautiful ancient cedars soon begin to line the way. How this board-footage escaped the chain saw is nothing short of miraculous.

These 100,000 acres of rugged national forest land between the Sauk, Skagit, and North Fork Stilly rivers-known as the Finney Block-have been intensively logged in the last several decades, resulting in miles of prime hiking trails obliterated, acres of primeval forest ravaged, and some of the best spotted-owl habitat in the state compromised. Only two small areas, just 25 percent of the Finney Block, remain roadless. The Mount Higgins area consists of 13,000 acres and has some of the last miles of maintained trail in the Finney Block. The area surely would have been logged too if not for legal actions taken by conservationists in the 1990s. This tract should be wilderness and its obliterated and abandoned trails should be resurrected.

Continue through magnificent forest. Use caution on the old puncheon (cedar planks) frequently encountered along the way; much of it is rotting, slippery, and contorted. At about 2 miles cross Dicks Creek, which can be difficult during times of heavy runoff. Now on rougher tread and parallel to the cascading creek, the trail once again climbs steeply.

Reaching a marshy area at 3 miles, the grade eases. At 3.5 miles, just after re-crossing Dicks Creek, come to an easy-to-miss junction in a hardy huckleberry patch (elev. 3650 ft). The trail left drops to Myrtle Lake.

The way to Higgins continues right, along marshy meadows and mosquito-incubating pothole ponds. Then it's back into impressive old growth before once again steeply climbing, traversing scree and heather slopes and arriving at the 4849-foot former lookout site at 4.5 miles. Catch your breath and watch your step-it's one heck of a drop. To the north, snuggled in a blanket of old growth, is Myrtle Lake. The giants Whitehorse and Three Fingers vie for your attention to the south. In the west, Puget Sound sparkles against a backdrop of Olympic peaks. And to the east, follow the folded strata of peaks making up the Mount Higgins massif. The true summit is the farther peak at 5176 feet. The closer one, Skadulgwas, honors a legendary princess of the Sauk-Suiattle people.
Driving Directions:

Take exit 208 off of I-5 and drive 4 miles east on State Route 530 to Arlington, and then continue east on SR 530 for 17 more miles. Just before milepost 38, turn left onto the easy-to-miss dirt "C Post Road." Proceed north, crossing the North Fork Stillaguamish in 0.5 mile and coming to an unmarked junction. Turn left, following a semirough road for 2.4 miles to its end at a berm. The trail, marked by a shot-up sign, begins on the east side of the road (elev. 1450 ft).

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 85 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Mount Higgins — Sep 12, 2013 — Marie
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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I've always enjoyed this hike. Unfortunately, the road to the trailhead has been gated just as you ...
I've always enjoyed this hike. Unfortunately, the road to the trailhead has been gated just as you leave Hwy530. Therefore you either walk or bike the three miles to the trail head. We opted for bikes.

Considering the trail is hard to access it's in remarkable good shape. It's the driest I've ever seen it. Still boggy in spots, but usually it's wet enough that the bugs eat me alive. No bugs to speak of today. The view from the top gives you nice views of the valley, twin sister, shuksan, white horse and three fingers. It was too hazy to see Rainier or the sound today. We stopped at the Myrtle lake on the way down. It's a pretty lake, but hard to access the shore. It's still as boggy as I remember.

With the extra hike to the trailhead this turns out to be a 15mile round trip kind of day. I'm glad we went. With the trailhead being inaccessible it won't be long before the blackberries and alders take over the trailhead and the lower part of the trail.
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Mount Higgins — Aug 25, 2013 — KW
Day hike
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We attempted to do this hike but were unable to access the trailhead due to a locked gate. This was ...
We attempted to do this hike but were unable to access the trailhead due to a locked gate. This was strange as it appears that the road is a public road, not private. The people living in the house beside the gate said that a home owner put the gate there to prevent access. Again, seems strange that a homeowner can do this on a public road.
Am planning on contacting local ranger station to get more information. Was disappointed as the trail looks beautiful.
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Mount Higgins — Jun 22, 2013 — Jimbo
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Seen the report of 6-19 so figured I'd make a go at it. Heard something about a Gate beening locked ...
Seen the report of 6-19 so figured I'd make a go at it. Heard something about a Gate beening locked and cut open and found it fixed and closed. Not happy finding this. Who owns this Rd or land ? DNR, F/S ? Bunch of Crap is what it is. That Rd has been fixed and all colverts replaced.

So now it's 2.2 miles from the gate to the trail head, all up. Snow started and was solid at 3500 ft. Made it to the meadow and called it day. 5 miles on the GPS at that point and lot's of solid snow. We had a rest and a snack and turned back.

Ran into some folks that seen the mid week report and then found the gate as well. More folks not happy. Round trip 10 miles, 3500 foot of Up and happy to get the boots off.
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Mount Higgins — Jun 18, 2013 — Erdeman
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail
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Excellent easy early hike up to the top of mountain with a great view. The road is very rutted and ...
Excellent easy early hike up to the top of mountain with a great view. The road is very rutted and bumpy and I would not recommend it for a low clearance car. First part of trail is getting pretty brushy. Soon you enter the beautiful old growth forest. The trail is in good condition. Spotty snow starts at a low 3500'. Route finding is not too difficult and the trail does make brief appearances to give confidence. Above 4200' it is solid snow to the summit, but by then it is obvious how to get to the top. Views down into the Stilly Valley are superb. Some fun glissades are had on the way down.
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Mount Higgins — May 01, 2013 — aloneinthewoods
Day hike
Issues: Road to trailhead inaccessible
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I didn't hike this trail, but I wanted people to know that the road is closed just past the bridge f...
I didn't hike this trail, but I wanted people to know that the road is closed just past the bridge from what I gathered from the forest service road/trail reports. No doubt due to all the disrespectful people shooting and trashing the place. :(
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Mount Higgins.jpg
The view from Mount Higgins. Photo by Marie.
Location
Mount Higgins (#640)
North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
DNR & Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 9.0 miles
Elevation Gain 3400 ft
Highest Point 4849 ft
Features
Lakes
Old growth
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Wildlife
Ridges/passes
User info
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Oso No. 77

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerMount Higgins
48.3106 -121.850583333
  • DNR Land
(48.3106, -121.8506) Open in new window
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