Downey Creek Trail #768

Hiking the Downey Creek Trail, photo by Martha Rasmussen

The trail starts off climbing a gentle grade through old growth Douglas Fir with mossy understory.  As you come to the switchbacks the trail will warm you up as you gain 300 feet of elevation.  After a half of a mile the trail enters the Glacier Peak Wilderness and climbs as you begin to hear Downey Creek grow nearer.  The trail resumes a gentle grade and travels along Downey Creek occasionally offering some nice views of the creek below.  At about 2 miles you will come to your first stream crossing which can be challenging during snow-melt. 

The first stream crossing, photo by Martha Rasmussen

The giant Douglas Fir trees along the trail are very impressive but the giant trees that have fallen across the trail can cause some challenges.  When you reach about 3 miles you will come to a large avalanche chute where you can see the vast destruction of past avalanches and the boulders that thundered down to the forest below.  Look up the opening here and catch a view of Green Mountain above.  On a clear day if you look closely you will see the Green Mountain Lookout.

Entering the Glacier Peak Wilderness on the Downey Creek Trail, photo by Martha Rasmussen

Camp sites can be found at 3 and 3.5 miles.  The trail crosses five tributaries of Downey Creek and can be a bit challenging so just be prepared to get your feet wet.  As the trail continues there will be a couple of boardwalks traveling  through some wetlands then another stream to ford.  At 4 miles you will come to another campsite.  As you continue you will hear a sizable creek ahead, thankfully this one has a bridge crossing. 

Downey Creek in late summer, photo by Nels Rasmussen

At 6.6 miles you come to the end of the Downey Creek Trail and its largest tributary, the raging Bachelor Creek.  Across the Bachelor Creek bridge are some nice campsites where the old shelter use to be.  To continue hiking from this point puts you on the long abandoned Bachelor Creek Trail #796 climbing toward the Ptarmigan Traverse.

Type of trail: USFS
Length: 6.6 miles
Elevation: 1,400 - 2,400
Level of difficulty: moderate
Usage: medium

Best season: Summer & Fall

Seasonal Interest:
  • Summer - wildflowers, birding, wildlife
  • Fall - fall colors, birding, wildlife

General Information:

Campsites at 3 miles, 3.5 miles, 4 miles & 6.6 miles at the end of the trail.

Beyond the 6.6 mile end of the trail starts the cross-country mountaineering route, Ptarmigan Traverse.

This trail has been reported as having a some bee problems in late summer & fall.

Wilderness restrictions: yes, enters the Glacier Peak Wilderness

Northwest Trail Pass is required

Restroom: Vault toilet at trailhead

Bring plenty of drinking water

Check Road & Trail Conditions

Getting There: From the Darrington Ranger District drive north eight miles, turn right on the Suiattle River Road, FSR #26.  Drive 20 miles east to the Downey Creek Trailhead.  The trail is just past the Downey Creek Bridge on the left (north) side of the road. Trail parking and vault toilet is on your right (south) side of the road.

Further information:

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Map of Ptarmigan Traverse from

Ptarmigan Traverse - The Mountaineers

Downey Creek - portal to the famous Ptarmigan Traverse

See Hiking the Cascades, Downey Creek on YouTube