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Monte Cristo Ghost Town

Our Hiking Time: 4h 15m
Total Ascent: 600ft
Highest Point: 2900ft
Total Distance: 9.5 miles
Location: N 47° 59.1180, W 121° 23.5620
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's Photo
As Halloween approaches, a lot of folks start thinking about ghosts, goblins and haunted houses. While we’ve yet to find a hike out to a haunted house, we do occasionally get the chance to visit a ghost town. Recently we trekked out to Monte Cristo, one of Washington’s most famous ghost towns and the site of the state’s biggest gold rush.

This is a decent hike that should be approachable for almost anyone, especially those interested in a little history. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend you stop at the Verlot Ranger Station on your way out to Barlow Pass to pick up a pamphlet that includes a map of Monte Cristo and explanations of the various marked sites in the town. After you are done touring the town you may be looking to do a little more hiking. If that’s the case you can continue up to Glacier Falls and Glacier Basin. Or you can retrace the pre-railroad approach to Monte Cristo with hike up to Poodle Dog Pass #708, named in honor of Frank Peabody’s dog, which he evidently took with him when he climbed the pass on his way to Monte Cristo from Mineral City.

This hike’s only challenge is the river crossing, but that may soon be changing. A new access road will be on the other side of the river, connecting with the current road after the washout. The road is being built to support a massive cleanup effort focusing on containing the arsenic and other heavy metals churned up by Monte Cristo’s mining past. The cleanup will begin in fall of 2013 lasting to the summer of 2015, during that time the plan is to close the townsite. How the new road will be used after the cleanup is still undecided. Luckily, even though a little snow has fallen, you still have some weekends left to visit Monte Cristo before it’s shuttered until 2015.

There's a lot more to Monte Cristo, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take I-5 North to Exit 194. Follow Highway 2 for about two miles. Stay in the left lane and merge onto Lake Stevens Highway 204. Follow for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens. In just under two miles, you’ll reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway. Take the MLH for 31 miles to Barlow Pass. Park and find the gated Monte Cristo Road on the right side of the road, opposite the trailhead parking lot. -Nathan

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Snoqualmie Tunnel via The Iron Horse Trail

Our Hiking Time: 2h 30m
Total Ascent: 0ft
Highest Point: 2500ft
Total Distance: 5 miles
Location: W 47° 23' 23.6820, N 121° 23.7540
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's Photo
With Halloween just around the corner, we wanted to find something a little spooky for our hike this week. After considering a few ghost towns and mines, we settled on a restored railroad tunnel that offers a slightly unnerving 11,890ft walk under Snoqualmie Pass in near total darkness. Complete with dripping walls, echoing voices, misty air and a chilly breeze, this short trek through a piece of railroading history makes for the perfect Halloween hike.

Back around the turn of the last century, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad finally connected Seattle to the rest of its eastern lines. They were a little behind their competition, as the Great Northern Railway had completed this feat over a decade earlier. Like Great Northern, the Milwaukee folks underestimated the Cascade snows and began operation without a tunnel, building the Laconia Station at Snoqualmie Pass to help keep the trains running through the winter. It only took a few years of heavy snow to convince the railroad to accelerate its plans to build a tunnel.

Early surveys began in 1908, and some initial construction preparation was started in 1911, but not until after the particularly nasty winter of 1912-13 did construction begin in earnest. In roughly 15 months, around 2,500 “tunnel stiffs” bored into the mountain from either end of the tunnel, burning through 340 tons of dynamite and removing 180,000 cubic yards of rock. They met on August 5, 1914 and the first passenger came through Tunnel 50 on January 24, 1915. In 1917 the tunnel was connected to the lines that powered the railroad's hybrid electric-steam engines in order to deal with ventilation problems, and the large wooden housing for the electrical boxes still line the tunnel today.

Times change and over the years traveling to the ski slopes by rail slowly gave way to private automobiles. The railroad declined and the last Milwaukee train passed through the tunnel on March 15, 1980. The railroad abandoned its land and the tunnel was closed. Ownership passed to Washington State, and for the next 15 years, tracks were removed and the Iron Horse State Park slowly began to take shape, but without the Snoqualmie Tunnel, the park remained divided. Then, on September 24, 1994 old Tunnel 50 was re-opened, creating an unbroken trail that now stretches 110 miles across the state. The tunnel was again closed on January 30, 2009 for renovations including adding another 4-inch layer of concrete on the walls and ceiling. It reopened July 5, 2011.

From the trailhead walk the gravel path the short distance to the tunnel entrance. The wide, graveled railroad grade is flat and easy for large groups and bikers to share the trail. At the entrance note the wooden doors used to seal the tunnel between trains during the winter months. In the past these were used to minimize the ice that would form in the tunnel. For the same reason, the tunnel closes every year from November 1 to May 1, to prevent ice-related injuries. As we mentioned, the tunnel is a chilly and dark, so put on your jacket and headlamp before you plunge into the darkness.

The faint pinpoint of light ahead is the other end of the tunnel, and you’ll spend the next hour or so watching it get bigger and brighter. Once you emerge from the tunnel, be sure to linger and take in the decent views of nearby Granite Mountain, Denny Mountain, Bandera Mountain and McCellan Butte. As you turn around, take note of the second arched entrance that many say was made in preparation for a parallel tunnel that was never built. Because of the slight curve at the beginning of the tunnel, you will not have the light at the end of the tunnel to guide you for most of the way, making the return trip a little spookier.

This is a great hike for the whole family around this time of the year. There’s no elevation gain, the trail is wide enough for everyone to share, and a tunnel is a decent option on a rainy autumn day. If you’re looking to minimize the number of folks you share the trail with, we recommend you head out to the tunnel earlier in the day, as it can become crowded later. Remember to bring a strong flashlight or headlamp and enough layers to keep you warm. The tunnel closes the day after Halloween, so plan to give Snoqualmie Tunnel a visit before it closes for the next six months.

To get there, take I-90 to exit #54 and head right. Almost immediately take a left onto State Route 906, following the signs to Snoqualmie Tunnel. In about a half-mile, take a right just before the Highway Maintenance area. In a few hundred feet turn right into the trailhead parking lot. -Nathan


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Tubal Cain Mine and Tull Canyon Trails

Our Hiking Time: 3h 45m
Total Ascent: 1600ft
Highest Point: 4600ft
Total Distance: 8.5 miles
Location: N 47° 51.1680, W 123° 5.7780
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's Photo
A few months ago we headed across the water to the Olympic Peninsula to take on a hike that promised lakes, mines, creeks, and the wreckage of a B-17. The Tubal Cain Mine Trail snakes through the Buckhorn Wilderness, tracing the route miners took back in the early 1900s to reach their mining camps.

This hike has a little bit of everything, from lakes and creeks to canyons and mountain passes. With multiple destinations along the trail, you can tailor this hike depending on your time and company. The trail to the mine is a good choice for a late season hike and should be approachable for almost every hiker. And while Tull Canyon Trail is more challenging, the promise of plane wreckage provides ample motivation. The trek out to Buckhorn Pass is for those folks looking to put in a ten or eleven mile day. Whatever you’re looking to do, find some time to head out to the Olympics to explore the Buckhorn Wilderness along the Tubal Mine Trail soon.

There's a lot more to the Tubal Cain Mine and Tull Canyon Trails, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State.  Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take the Bainbridge Island Ferry, following State Route 305 through Poulsbo to State Route 3. Follow SR 3 to the Hood Canal Bridge, taking a left over the bridge onto State Route 104. Follow SR 104 as it merges onto US 101 and continue another 18 miles and turn left onto Palo Alto Road. Continue about eight miles to Road #2880. Veer right and steeply descend down to the Dungeness River, past Dungeness Forks Campground. In about two miles head left on Road #2870 and continue about 11 miles to the Tubal Cain Mine Trailhead. -Nathan
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Hibox Mountain via Rachel Lake Trail #1313

Our Hiking Time: 8h
Total Ascent: 3800ft
Highest Point: 6547ft
Total Distance: 7 miles
Location: N 47° 25.9020, W 121° 18.0360
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's Photo
Not long ago, we had the chance to return to the Rachel Lake and Box Canyon aiming to climb Hibox, a prominence along Box Ridge’s rocky spine. We really enjoyed our hike up Alta Mountain a few years ago, and hoped Hibox would be a similar experience. As it turned out, Hibox Mountain is a little more challenging than Alta Mountain, but the views are at least as good, if not better.

Back before Washington was a state, it was part of the Oregon Territory, and settlers carved out their lands on either side of the Washington Cascades. By 1853, Washington’s population had grown to the point that it was re-organized as a separate government known as the Washington Territory. Almost immediately, the new government began to tackle the need to connect the eastern and western portions of the territory. Surveyors and explorers set about finding suitable passage through the Cascades, eventually finding many routes, including Snoqualmie Pass. Box Canyon was explored during this time, and was named for the way Rampart Ridge and Keechlus Ridge “box” you in as you try and cross the Cascades. Hibox (sometimes called High Box) is the highpoint on Box Ridge, and was named by forest officers.

The hike beings at the Rachel Lake Trailhead #1313, following Box Canyon Creek through small stands of pine and lush slide zones filled with bracken fern and salmonberry. The trail here is relatively flat, with only small ups and downs and an occasional log to hop over. The creek also provides a couple of open areas that make for great rest stops on your return trip. Keep an eye out for the rocky finger of Hibox on the ridge. Your first glimpse will be in a large slide area and again at a second clearing at a little over 2 miles. Just after you cross the second clearing, look in the trees for an unmarked but obvious trail heading toward the mountain.

From here, there is only one direction: up. Switchback up the shoulders of the ridge, following a rough and narrow trail through the trees toward the summit block. Eventually, the trees recede, replaced by talus and scree veering to the right, under the cliffs that make up the mountaintop. Some sections of the trail are loose rock here, so tread carefully as you climb up to the ridgeline.

Your last challenge is the short scramble to the top where 360-degree views await. From those heights you can easily pick out nearby Alta Mountain, Three Queens and the Park Lakes to the north. Beyond you can see Chikamin Peak, Lemah Mountain, Chimney Rock and Summit Chief Mountain. On a good day you’ll be able to pick out Glacier Peak. As you turn east you’ll see Mt. Hinman, Mt. Daniel and Mt. Stuart. To the south is Rampart Ridge and Mt. Rainier. Keep turning west to pick out Mt. Thompson out from among the Snoqualmie Peaks. Settle in to see how many more peaks you can count.

Climbing up to Hibox will be a challenge for some hikers and we don’t recommend it for everyone. Once you leave the Rachel Lake Trail, the trail is steep, rough, and is easy to lose in the talus fields. On the upside, you can also expect to leave most hikers to Rachel Lake and Alta Mountain, as the route does not get a lot of traffic. This hike can be great alternative, as long as you’re comfortable with a little route finding and a small amount of scrambling. If you’ve already explored Rampart Ridge and are hungry for a little more, Hibox might be the perfect fit.

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 62. Turn north and drive five miles to the Lake Kachess campground, then turn left onto Box Canyon Road #4930. Continue for four miles to the large trailhead parking area. –Nathan

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