Jun 28, 2012
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Marten Creek
- Region: North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
- Agency: Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest - Darrington District
- Trails: Marten Creek (#713)
- Avg Rating: 2.33
- Be Aware Of
- Clogged drainage
- Water on trail
Right from the start, the trail follows an old caterpillar tractor road once built to access a mine. This old road has decayed into a pleasantly woodsy trail, but it wastes no time gaining elevation, sometimes getting as steep as 50% in some short, thigh-burning sections. A cool forest shades the potentially sweaty ascent. Part way up the trail passes a sign marking a forestry experiment, where different variety of douglas fir trees were planted to determine growth capability.
After 1000' of climbing, the trail tops a ridge and descends a bit into the valley of Marten Creek, whose alluring rapids and pools become visible but are not quite close enough to be accessible. For a half mile, the trail takes a nearly level course through a magnificent forest, then begins a steady climb to a point well-above the creek's level. At length, it pops out onto a brushy avalanche slope with a view of the upper valley of the creek and a surprising glimpse of Three Fingers Mountain poking up beyond Granite Pass. Enjoy the view here, because this it about as good as it gets.
Beyond this point, the trail has been virtually unmaintained except by the occasional volunteer, and it becomes quite rough. Brush encroaches on its tread and downed logs are frequent. The badly eroded path gradually descends to the valley floor, where it traverses a series of forest groves and brushy patches. There is just enough usage to keep the trail's route readily visible, and a few flags help out with navigation.
At one point, the trail reaches a zone of amazing erosion, where runoff has carved the trail's tread into a mini-canyon ten feet deep. You have to work your away around the gully in the surrounding forest. Not long beyond this spot, the trail finally comes to an apparent end at the side of the creek, which is much too large to cross with dry feet. A faint trail climbs the upstream bank to a little-used campsite nearby. This is a good spot to take a break and take in the peaceful ambiance of the valley. You've come about 3 miles to get to this point.
Next to the campsite is an old cut log that suggest that this faint trail may be one of the two long-lost trails (one on either side of the creek) that once ascended to Granite Pass. Going upstream, this trace of a path soon fades out in the brush, and the trip to the pass from here on is basically cross-country travel. I've done the trip, and it is not too bad as cross-country goes - mostly the route is in open, relatively unbrushy forest. The main difficulty is crossing a brushy, boulder-filled gulch at the head of the valley. Beyond the gulch, a steep but open forested slope leads to the pass. Traces of the once-important trail (used by people headed from Silverton to Darrington during the 1920s and 1930s) become visible there.
The cat road/trail actually continues beyond the creek crossing (you have to wade upstream past a bluff to find the continuation). Extremely brushy and overgrown, the path leads to a mining site and wreckage of a cabin. Another old trail once headed for Granite Pass from the mine area, also. No one has been able to find this trail in years.
Due to the efforts of the WTA, the Marten Creek Trail is free of downed logs up to the avalanche slope. However, much of the trail is badly eroded and could use some heavy-duty drainage work. Beyond the avalanche slope, as I've noted, the trail is a mess. Hopefully a strong trail crew will be sent there to fix it sometime in the future. Reopening the old trail to Granite Pass would be a great idea!