Total Ascent: 3800ft
Highest Point: 5400ft
Total Distance: 7.4 miles
Location: N 46° 58.2483, W 121° 54.1433
Required Permit: National Park Pass
Not long ago we ventured back to the Carbon River area to hike some of the oldest sections of trail in Mt. Rainier National Park on our way up to the summit of Florence Peak. The trek promised big views of Mr. Rainier and a hike through a lush temperate rain forest. As we soon discovered, the West Boundary Trail delivered all this and more.
The West Boundary Trail is a remnant of the Boundary Trail that once circled the park, allowing rangers to patrol the park’s boundaries. In 1933 a division of the Civilian Conservation Corps known as the Emergency Conservation Corps established a camp at Isput Creek to make improvements to the Carbon River Road. In addition to work on the road, the Corps also built and improved many trails in the park, including the Boundary Trail. Over the next 40 years, the park boundaries changed as did the need to patrol the park boundaries on foot, and by the 1970s the Forest Service stopped maintaining the trail. While remote sections of the trail are now lost beneath the advancing forest, some portions were never truly abandoned by hikers, including what is now known as the West Boundary Trail. After the most recent washout of the Carbon River Road, the Washington Trails Association and other volunteer groups worked tirelessly to expand and reclaim this historical trail. Today, thanks to their efforts, the hike from the Carbon River Entrance up to Alki Crest is once again easily accessible.
The trail begins from the former Carbon River Ranger Station along Rain Forest Loop Trail. The short interpretive trail wanders under the forest canopy over a series of wooden boardwalks and low bridges. Connect with the signed West Boundary Trail at the far end of the loop as it begins to veer uphill. From the junction, the route begins a series of steep switchbacks through old growth forest, punctuated by brief plateaus that draw you southwest along the shoulders of Sweet Peak. At 1.2 miles at the end of a switchback a short side trail provides access to a cascade sometimes referred to as the West Boundary Trail Falls. Take a moment to catch your breath and take in the mossy waterfall before continuing ever upward.
As you near the summit, the trail becomes something of a scramble through meadows and rocky outcroppings. Eventually find yourself clambering up onto exposed rock and what looks to be the summit. Technically, the true summit is further on, though that scramble is somewhat more treacherous. Wherever you decide to stop, Mt. Rainier looms large to the south. Tolmie and Howard Peak can be seen in front of Rainier as you begin to turn east. Arthur Peak is the closest peak to the east. To the north you can pick out Bearhead Mountain and Old Baldy. Settle in and break out a map to see how many more mountaintops you can identify.
With a lot of elevation to tackle and short sections to scramble, this can be a challenging hike. Likely because of the challenge, it does not see a great deal of traffic. While the views are excellent, they are rivaled by a trek through mossy forest and tumbling waterfalls. Tough but beautiful, this is hike is a good alternative to Green Lake and other popular hikes further down the Carbon River Road.
To get there, take I-5 South to I-405. From I-405 take SR 167 south toward Auburn. In 20 miles take the SR 410 Exit toward Sumner/Yakima. Follow SR 410 for 12 miles to SR 165. Take a right and continue on SR 165 for about 10 miles through Wilkeson and Carbonado to the Carbon River Road/Mowich Lake Road junction. Veer left onto the Carbon River Road and follow for 7.7 miles to the Carbon River Entrance of Mt. Rainer and parking. -Nathan
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Total Ascent: 500ft
Highest Point: 2800ft
Total Distance: 4.4 miles
Location: N 47°57.0170, W 120° 19.968
Required Permit: None
Not long ago we spent a weekend hiking around the bluffs above Lake Chelan. We explored a number of trails, all of which had something a little different to offer. One of those trails was the North Fork 25 Mile Creek Trail, a dusty mixed use trail that follows the creek to a washout.
Back around the turn of the last century, homesteaders settled in the area around Twentyfive Mile Creek, grazing sheep and cattle in the dry hills and the valleys made green by the streams working their way down to Lake Chelan. By the 1930s the area was overgrazed and the sheep and cattle declined, but left an area already prone to wildfires even more vulnerable to fire. In 1945, despite the occasional fire, Roger Hale built a mile-long pipeline from the North Fork Twentyfive Mile Creek to his family’s homestead. Throughout the 1970s the fires intensified, and the more recent 1994 Tyee Fire, the 1998 North 25 Fire and the 2004 Pot Peak fire have all left thousands of acres of charred forest behind. In 2006 floods washed out the trail just past the two mile mark, and the upper reaches of the trail have since become overgrown and been all but officially abandoned. Today, it is easy to spot large swaths of burnt trees on the hillsides near the trail and you can still catch the smell of ash in the air.
The trail begins from the main forest road, following a dusty utility road toward the sounds of the creek (ignore the mislabeled sign at the trailhead; rest assured that while it reads #1256 instead of #1265, you are in the right place). After about a quarter mile, catch your first glimpses of the creek in the ravine below the road. Continue following the pine tree and brush-lined trail out 1.2 miles to the road’s end. From here, leave the road behind and begin the hike in earnest, following the rocky trail down to the creek. Almost immediately, you’ll come across the North Fork Water System installed by Mr. Hale, which is still in full operation and easily accessed from the trail. After you’ve taken a look at the water system, continue deeper into the forest passing trees and brush scarred by recent fires along the way. As you progress, the creek is never far from your side, despite a few steep ups and downs. Reach the washout at the 2.2 mile mark and settle in to enjoy the water.
This is a short creekside day hike that offers a taste of the hikes in the area. Although once more of an ORV trail, since the 2006 washout this has become more of a hiking route. While the trail does not boast big views or a sparkling lake, the creek offers pleasant company as you wind your way through a forest still recovering from recent fires. With a limited amount of elevation gain, most hikers should not have a problem reaching the gravel beach created by the washout. If you’re looking for some adventure, you can push onward past the washout and try to connect with the Lone Peak Trail.
To get there, take I-90 to Exit 85 to Cle Elum/Leavenworth. Cross the freeway and head right on WA 970 toward Leavenworth as it merges into WA 97. As WA 97 ends, merge on US 2 toward Wenatchee following signs for US 2 and WA 97. In West Wenatchee, follow signs for WA 97 ALT. Once on WA 97 ALT, continue 23.5 miles to WA 971, taking a left and following to Lakeshore Road. Take a left and continue 10.4 miles past Twentyfive Mile Creek State Park to FR 5900. Take a left and follow FR 5900 3.3 miles to a switchback in the road. Park here. The signed trailhead is a few hundred feet up the road on the left. -Nathan
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