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Whitehorse Rails To Trails

The Whitehorse Trail is a beautiful walk filled with the scenic beauty of the mountains and the Stillaguamish River.
The first train to Darrington, photo from the Darrington Historical Society

The Whitehorse Trail is a trail through rich history as well as natural beauty.  This trail started in 1901 when the tracks were laid connecting Arlington & Darrington via railway.  When the first train came chugging into Darrington history was changed forever and forged a bond with the North Fork Stillaguamish Valley communities that would last forever.  The original plan for getting the train to come all the way to Darrington was to transport the ore from the various surrounding mines.  Pioneer Charles Burns was the main spearhead for getting the train to come to Darrington and without his dream & drive it could have been many years before this would have happened.

The old Boulder River Railroad Bridge, photo by Pete Earth Art

The Whitehorse Trail follows the NF Stillaguamish River and parallels SR 530.  Much of the trail moves away from the highway and drops down closer to the river involving several bridge crossings and great vistas.   There are 4 old millponds along the trail, each one unique and offering great wetland habitat birding.  In Autumn the eagles begin their return to the Stillaguamish Valley to feed before nesting and can easily be viewed sunning themselves on branches from the trail.

 Looking north from the Whitehorse Trail at the NF Stillaguamish River & Mt. Higgins on wintertime,
photo by Martha Rasmussen

The Whitehorse Trail is currently not completed with one bridge still not decked for safety but great strides are currently being done to finish this project. The trail remains closed west of Oso to east at C-Post Road where the tragic mudslide occurred March 22, 2014.  C-Post, once called "Sepost", was a spur for a logging railroad.  All along the old railroad grade which is now the Whitehorse Trail were several small communities with their schools, mills and their logging railroads.

The Hazel Stump House, once located at Hazel, WA, photo from Hazel Holm

Several of the sites where communities were are just names remaining on maps today and some still have some of the historical buildings and ruins.  Hazel still has the old dentist office, now dwelling, school, now dwelling, Hazel millpond & Pearson barn.  At one time Hazel had a store - post office, sawmill, shingle mill and logging railroad which was the first built in area.  This railroad spur went to up the Boulder River, part of this old grade is the Boulder River Trail today.  The Boulder River Bridge along the trail in 1920, the original bridge once was a 100 foot covered truss bridge built in 1909.
The Fortson millpond & Whitehorse Mountain, photo by Martha Rasmussen

Another historical site along the Whitehorse Trail is Fortson where today remains 2 millponds and some massive ruins.  Today these lands are owned by Snohomish County, Stillaguamish Tribe & Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.  The County will be adding Fortson as a Whitehorse Trailhead.  Fortson is a premiere location to view wildlife.  The larger millpond has the signs of very busy beavers, nesting birds muskrats and more.  In winter & fall the eagles will be along the ponds and the river just to the north.

Crossing over Little Moose Creek Bridge, photo by Martha Rasmussen

Further upriver of Fortson you cross the Little Moose Creek & Moose Creek Bridges named for the old placer claims upstream.  At one time Moose Creek was damned to create a millpond for the L.D.R. Sawmill which was located southeast of the bridge.  As with all early mills their was a settlement that lived around this mill and one further upriver named BARCO.  During winter when the leaves are off of the trees if you look very carefully in this area you can spot the old chimneys of the Irving School.  All of the bridge crossings on this trail are great places to watch for the salmon spawning in autumn and a great nature day with the family.

Chip cars were once loaded at the mill, photo from Bruce Seaton

Continuing upriver you come to the Squire Creek Bridge and just beyond this the North Fork Sillaguamish bends away from the trail and disappears. 
The river will again come in sight of the trail as you walk a little over 1 more mile, then it will bend northward to the North Mountain and the place of its headwaters, a place known as"River's End".  On the east side of the river heading north was a Sound Timber Logging railroad spur.  The trail now bends southeast through mixed forest and some wetlands.  As you begin to see the Hampton log yards and mill off in the distance, the trail will bend towards the south.  This place was once referred to as, "Andron," a place where three tracks met to form a triangle.  A couple of major logging railroads connected with the Darrington to Arlington tracks here and the spur to the Three Rivers Mill, now Hampton Mill. 
The trail ends in Darrington a short distance from here and easy walking to town and places to enjoy a meal.

The Whitehorse Trail is a good year round trail for wildlife viewing, history and the seasonal beauty of the river and mountains.  During times of snow, it is a snowshoeing destination.  A great trail for the family to enjoy or bicycle.  Come take a walk in Darrington history.

The trail is still under construction working on acquiring trailheads, reworking some of the damaged railroad grade to be used as trail.  You can keep up to date on the progress of the trail at this website to learn what phases of this trail have been completed and what plans are in the works for the future.

For more information see the Snohomish County website Whitehorse Trail