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Old Robe Canyon

North Cascades > Mountain Loop Highway
48.1101, -121.8558 Map & Directions
Length
2.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
350 feet
Highest Point
1050 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Easy
Winter time in the Robe Canyon. Photo taken by Cbig.
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Good for kids
  • Rivers

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None

Short, easy trail to the Stillaguamish River and the site of the railroad town of Robe and great views of the Stilliguamish River as it races by. The trail switchbacks through a forest of alder down to a forest of big leaf maple draped with lush mosses, liverwort and licorice fern. The forest floor is thick with fern and colorful salmonberry. Watch the kids! The Stilliguamish runs swift and deep here, especially during periods of high water flow. It is not recommended to continue on to the old railroad tunnels due to trail washout, slope slump and rockfall. Continue reading

Rating
3.50 out of 5

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Hiking Old Robe Canyon

Historically significant and naturally beautiful, the trail through Robe Canyon is a worthy hiking destination any time of year.

120 years ago, railroad crews faced the daunting challenge of building tracks along a flood-prone river to connect the mines at Monte Cristo with the smelters in Everett. A narrow canyon east of Granite Falls proved to be a particularly challenging spot to lay tracks; frequent floods and rock slides destroyed not only the tracks, but also the settlement of Robe. The repair costs were high, and the line was eventually abandoned. Fortunately, today’s hikers can still enjoy the area thanks to a Boy Scout troop, who built the trail in the 1960s, and the Snohomish County Parks Department, who created the Robe Canyon Historic Park in the 1990s.

The well-maintained trail quickly leaves the Mountain Loop Highway behind as it descends 300 feet down a steep bluff toward the Stillaguamish River. A series of gentle switchbacks makes the trip down (and back up) easy on the knees. The river bottom is wide and lush with maples and cottonwoods, making this an ideal place to soak your feet while soaking up the sun.

Paralleling the river, the trail begins to show signs of the flooding that made this stretch so problematic for workers more than a century ago; undercut banks and eroded trail are prevalent, but easily manageable for hikers today. The roar of the river soon rises as the water is funneled through narrowing canyon walls, creating frothy rapids and churning eddies. Here, too, is the first tangible evidence that a railroad once ran this way. Walking atop the old railroad ties, it is easy to imagine the mining days of yore and to conjure up images of rusty railroad cars chock-full of ore rolling down the bumpy tracks.

At 1.2 miles, a rockslide blocks the path, marking the official end of the trail, and once again confirming the difficulties that railroad engineers faced so long ago. The trail past this point is closed to the public. 

Hike Description Written by
Lindsay Leffelman, WTA Correspondent

Old Robe Canyon

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.1101, -121.8558 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Granite follow Mountain Loop Highway east for 7 seven miles until coming to trailhead marked with brick sign. Note that the words can be hard to see on this sign! The trailhead is located directly across from Forest Road 41. Park along the shoulder of the Mountain Loop Highway. There are no trailhead amenities.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

North Cascades > Mountain Loop Highway

Snohomish County Parks

Guidebooks & Maps

Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades (Burton & Spring - Mountaineers Books)

robecanyon.org

Buy the Green Trails Granite Falls No. 109 map

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Old Robe Canyon

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