White Chuck Road Reopens
Views like this one of Glacier Peak will be easier to attain via the newly repaired White Chuck Road. Photo by Kim Brown.
Remember the White Chuck Road? Ten years ago, hikers by the dozens rumbled down the road on their way to launch a backpacking trip into the Glacier Peak Wilderness, to access the PCT, and to soak themselves in popular Kennedy Hot Springs.
Then came a massive rain and wind storm on November 7, 2003. The White Chuck River and Road was pummeled by flooding and mudslides. Kennedy Hot Springs was buried under feet of debris, gone forever. Since that day, the White Chuck Road has been closed to vehicles. A whole generation of hikers have no knowledge of this sublime river valley and adjacent wilderness.
Today, after nearly eight years, access to the the White Chuck River has been restored and the White Chuck Road (FR 23) reopens to vehicles until just beyond the turn off for Rat Trap Pass (FR 27). After that point, the road has been decommissioned.
What does this restored access provide? Most noticeably, it allows people to complete a lovely loop drive off of the Mountain Loop Highway in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The scenic loop includes the White Chuck Road (FR 23), Rat Trap Pass (FR 27), FR 25, and the Suiattle River Road (FR 26), taking in colorful foliage along the river valleys, huge old growth, a Wild and Scenic River, and a funky bridge.
The pay-off for hikers is in the long term. The White Chuck Bench Trail is washed out in several places, and the Forest Service is working to get the funding to make repairs.
The repaired road will also improve access to Crystal and Meadow Lakes and Circle Peak. Before the 2003 flooding, the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest was improving the trail network for these destinations, adding new trail miles that were designed to eliminate dull road walks. That effort was derailed eight years ago, but could pick up again as the road access may make it easier to acquire needed funding.
Finally, there is the White Chuck Trail at the end of the original road. This trailhead used to provide access to the PCT through one of its most spectacular stretches along the west side of iconic Glacier Peak. Lake Byrne, Kennedy Ridge, the White Chuck Glacier have been virtually unexplored by hikers for the better part of a decade. It's going to be a few years before this changes, but improvements are possible in the future. However, the road will never extend past its current end to the old trailhead.
While we can't turn back the clock to October 12, 2003, this is very good news overall. I'm excited to explore this area. How about you? What will be the first thing you do along the White Chuck?