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Gold Hill's Scenic Loop

Gold Hill or Gold Mountain?  If you look for it on the map you will see Gold Mountain.  Gold Hill is a name fondly given to this special mountain by the local community for generations.  Though it is a mountain in its own right with respectable elevation of  3,300 feet, it is dwarfed by the other majestic mountains surrounding Darrington.  Whitehorse Mountain towers over the town at an elevation of 6,852 feet and the neighboring Jumbo Mountain at 5,581 feet.  Gold Hill is a great destination for scenic views of the surrounding mountains and the valleys below.  Gold Hill is also a place rich in local history. So lets take a scenic backroad drive over Gold Hill!
Getting started on the Gold Hill Scenic Loop, photo by Martha Rasmussen

While driving try to imagine that between 1895 and 1900 there were over 100 mining claims on this small mountain.  These were the days of the Monte Cristo gold rush.  Darrington was having its own gold rush too at that time.  It was said that there was so much dynamite blasting around the fledgling town it was enough to give you the jitters!  There are still mining tunnels on Gold Hill from bygone days and there are still some active claims too.  Please respect where prospecting claims are posted.

The Gold Hill Scenic Loops Starts from driving south from Darrington to the White Chuck Bridge.  Crossing the bridge onto Forest Rd. # 22  driving 2.9 miles to Forest. Rd. #24.  This is where we need to zero the odometer for our scenic drive.

Small waterfall along the scenic drive, photo by Nels Rasmussen, D.C.

In the early 1900's timber harvest began to open up around the Darrington area.  As you are driving see if you can spot the subtle grades the Sauk River Logging Railroad left behind.  At mile 1.7 look to the left.  Can you see the old railroad grade?  When you reach 1.9 miles you will see water seeping out of the rocks on the right.  This is the site of the old Sweet-water mining claim.  Lime rock was the product of this claim.  The water coming out of the rock is from a sweet-water spring.

There are a couple of nice smaller waterfalls along the way and views through the trees of Mount Pugh to southeast. Keep in mind as you drive that you are entering a large neighborhood of wildlife so give them plenty of time to go about their business and get along their way.

Prairie Mountain from Gold Hill, photo by Nels Rasmussen, D.C.

Another important part of history this modest mountain has played is this is the mountain where the first fire lookout was built in northwest Washington back in 1915.  It was a simple platform on poles with a tent on top.  Fire lookouts were in an experimental stage at this time but when the Gold Mountain fire lookout spotted the fire burning on White Chuck Mountain saving countless acres of timberland these projects were no longer considered experiments!

As you continue to climb higher views of Prairie Mountain open up.  You will come to the junction of FS. Rd. #2420 to the left or take the straight route remaining on FS. Rd. #24 driving 2.6 miles to Sauk Prairie and back to town.  

Looking down from Gold Hill at the Sauk River & Valley, photo by Nels Rasmussen, D.C.

As you look down on the valley below imagine when it was the home of the first people to settle the valley, the people of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe.  Picture them navigating the swift rivers in their dugout canoes.  Each canoe took many patient hours and careful planning steaming and bending the large cedar tree that will become the canoe and a ways of travel.  Later prospectors came to this area searching for a means to a better life.  By July 22, 1891 there was a small community along the Sauk Valley and the filed for their town's name, Darrington, Washington

Both routes offer some good viewing of the Sauk Prairie and the Sauk River Valley however FS Rd #24 is a rougher road.

Looking to the west of Gold Hill at the town and Whitehorse Mountain, photo by Nels Rasmussen

If you continue on the FS. Rd #2420 which is a rougher road, you will meet back up at the junction of FS. Rd. #24 where you started at about 4.5 miles.  Views of Whitehorse to the west and Darrington down in the valley open up.

Looking southwest of Gold Hill, photo by Ned Blake

Just as you begin to descend Gold Hill there is a landing where you can get out and stretch your legs.  There is a great view looking southwest of Jumbo Mountain & beyond. 

When returning back to the junction of Forest Rd. #24 you could continue on two other scenic drives,
Cougar Hollow, or White Chuck Ridge.  Or you could enjoy the Mountain Loop Highway which has its own rich history!