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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Boulder River Wilderness, Washington

Majestic peaks rise in all directions in Washington's Boulder River Wilderness -- elegant, jagged, draped in snow.

by: Carmi Weingrod

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Contact Information:

Darrington Ranger Station 1405 Emmens Street Darrington, WA 98241 360/436-1155 Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Hotline: 800/627-0062 Office Hours: Monday - Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Darrington Chamber of Commerce Box 351 Darrington, WA 98241 360/436-2127

The Boulder River Wilderness is located within Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on the western side, just south of Darrington and east of Granite Falls. Back to Top

Getting There: From Seattle, take I-5 north to the Steven's Pass exit (Hwy. 2). Following the signs to Granite Falls, head north on Hwy. 9 and east on 92 to Granite Falls. Pick up the Mountain Loop Hwy. At 6.5 miles east of Granite Falls, go left on FS No. 41 (marked Tupso Pass), then go another 18 miles to the trailhead.

Seasonal Information: The route to Three Fingers lookout is negotiable mid-July through October, when temperatures are a mild 70 to 90 degrees.

Winter ascents to the lookout are possible, but climbers should be roped and prepared for adverse weather conditions. Check at the Darrington Ranger Station for conditions.

Spring brings plenty of rainy days.

Wildlife: Deer and many species of birds inhabit the area.

Insects: Contact the Darrington Ranger Station for insect precautions.

Plant Life: Although the wilderness is fairly green with ferns and many trees, visitors may also find heather, blueberry bushes, and wildflowers.


  • There are no designated campsites within the wilderness.
  • The town of Darrington offers lodging at the Stage Coach Inn and numerous bed-and-breakfast locations. Locals recommend dining in Darrington at Backwoods Cafe and Michelle's Deli.

Trail Descriptions: Boulder River Trail #734 Located off road #2010, this trail offers a pleasant hike along the Boulder River to a waterfall after one mile. The trail continues on for 4 miles ending at a ford crossing the river. This scenic trail is thick with magnificent stands of virgin timber.

Canyon Lake Trail #720 Located off road #4111, this short 0.1 mile hike leads to a popular five-acre lake.

Deer Creek-Kelcema Lake Trail #717 & #718 Located off road #2060 from the Darrington Side or from road #4052 on the Verlot side, this trail is a short 0.6 mile hike and easily provides access for fisherman. The 23-acre lake is set in a subalpine setting and the views are spectacular.

Eight Mile Trail # 654B Located off Clear Creek Road #2060, this trail climbs steeply up to Squire Creek pass. Cascading waterfalls from the numerous streams located along the way make for an enjoyable hike. The trail is 2.5 miles long and connects with the Squire Creek Trail at the pass.

Goat Flat-Saddle Lake Three Fingers Trail #641 Located off road #41, this trail passes four-acre Saddle Lake at 2.5 miles. Follow the trail 2.3 more miles and you'll pass a meadowy area called Goat Flat, which can often be very crowed on weekends.

The trail continues and reaches Tin Pan Gap after 6.2 miles. It is a technical climb requiring the use of equipment and climbing expertise to climb Three Fingers.

Martin Creek Trail #713 Located east on the Mt. Loop Hwy, this 3.3 mile hike climbs steeply and than follows an old mine road which once served the Martin Creek Mine, until the trail eventually disappears in the brush and the route becomes a matter of a cross-country travel.

Meadow Mountain Trail #715 Located off Tupso Pass road #41, this 5.8 mile hike leads to Saddle Lake and access to Goat Flats-Three Fingers Trail. This is an alternate route accessing trail #641 and is not always maintained.

Niederprum Trail (Whitehorse) #653 Located off Mine road from Hwy 530, this 1.4 mile trail is used primarily by climbers seeking the summit of Whitehorse Mountain. Only experienced mountaineers should venture beyond the trail end.

Squire Creek Trail #654 Located off road #2040, this trail begins climbing gradually through grand timber and boulder fields. The trail is 3.7 miles in length ending at the pass. For views to the south, climb up to the ridge and to the right, passing small tarns along the way.

Parking: Parking is available at Barlow Pass in the northeast corner of Darrington Ranger District.

Permits: No permits are required for camping.


  • There is no camping in revegetation areas
  • Motorized and mechanized equipment is prohibited (including bicycles and hang gliders)

Hazards: The route to the lookout does not cross the glacier or require roped travel, but hikers should have route-finding experience. An ice ax is recommended above Tin Can Gap. Several trails result in climbs that require expertise and/or equipment.

Leave No Trace: Groups are limited to 12 people.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: USGS 7.5-minute topos "Whitehorse" and "Meadow Mountain." Maps are also available at the Darrington Ranger Station.

Other Trip Options: Adjoining are Glacier Peak Wilderness (576,865 acres and more active glaciers than anywhere else in the lower 48) and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness (103,591 acres; 49 miles of trails).

Nature lovers may want to come out of the wilderness for the annual Wildflower Festival in June, held at Darrington High School and sponsored by the Forest Service.

You may want to check out the Timberbowl Rodeo in June, and the Bluegrass Festival and National Archery Tournament in July.

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Reader Rating: -


Apr 07, 2012

wilderness is good

Brad Mitchell
Mar 20, 2012

The Boulder River Trail can be hiked anytime of year. But my favorite time to hike it is in the late spring, when the River and waterfalls are full from snow melt and spring rains, and the trees are leafing out. This makes for some great photo opportunities. I've posted a set of photos on my blog at

Nov 13, 2010

Little-Known Fact: while the old growth in the Boulder River Wilderness is impressive, it is NOT the only virgin forest in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. That is ridiculous. See: Foss River, Denny Creek, Surprise Creek, and most forests above 4,000 feet, among others. A definitive list of old growth forests in MBSNF would be pages long.


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