A small town road trip into history
When the leaves start to turn, one of my favorite drives is the Mountain Loop Highway through Granite Falls. The trip is a small town road trip into history. The road takes you away from densely populated areas, and back in time. The area is filled with the history of the Salish people who lived in the area, and the loggers and miners who came much later.
The Drive on the Mountain Loop Highway
The loop follows the Stillaguamish river and sometimes twists and winds as the river bends. Unfortunately, there are not many services available on the route. Make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave Darrington! You will also want to check road conditions before you go, as washouts and potholes can be an issue in the early season, especially if you are towing.
Granite Falls Historical Museum – a small town history treasure
In Granite Falls, you can learn more about the area’s history. The Granite Falls Historical Museum is fantastic. This is a really lovely local museum run by volunteers, and is especially good on a rainly fall day. They have fantastic photos of loggers using double sided saws on trees that are wider than the loggers are tall. Though it’s sad that these trees are gone, the museum is a window into the area’s past that shouldn’t be missed.
Robe Canyon Walk
If you enjoy that aspect of the trip, take the historic tour a step further by taking an easy walk on the Robe Canyon walk. This path follows historic train tracks through tunnels carved out of rocks. This is a great path to do when it’s raining, if you have the right gear. It can be very atmospheric. I used to pick up railroad spikes and old bent lanterns in the bushes by the side of the trail. Those finds are less common now, but you never know what you might find, so keep an eye out.
Hiking and Camping in the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest
Continue on to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Here you’ll find some classic Northwest hikes. Heather Lake, Lake 22, and Big Four Ice Caves for the adventurous. The area also offers fantastic campgrounds. Two of my favorites are Verlot and Turlo. Verlot is particularly memorable for me because it was the first place I successfully backed my small trailer into a very tight space. Like a lot of forest service campgrounds, the spaces can be cozy.
Don’t miss the Verlot public service station. Built 1936-1938, it’s a great example of park service buildings built during that time. It’s also full of really helpful staff who can help you plan your stay.
So extend your camping into the fall, or just go for a day tour to enjoy the leaves. Washington’s Mountain Loop Highway is an autumn treat!
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