Starting from the parking lot at Barlow Pass, the trail begins under a heavy canopy of fir and hemlock. After a third of a mile, the nearly flat trail encounters a junction with the Barlow Point
Trail. Veer left, heading downhill and following the sign pointing toward the Old Government Trail. The fern-lined trail quickly descends down toward the railroad grade. The trail parallels the highway, which is partially obscured by foliage in the spring and summer but a fairly constant companion in the fall, and wanders past moss-covered cliffs and boggy marshes as it travels across talus fields. Rocks from these fields were used to build foundations that supported locomotives filled with coal and ore. Continue onward until you reach a set of small waterfalls near the end of the trail.
At this point, you can continue on the trail down to the Mountain Loop Highway, and walk it back to the parking lot for a loop, or just stop for lunch and head back along the trail. If youre up for it, there is some extra exploring that is possible along this hike you can leave the trail at certain points and connect with sections of the railbed. Here you will find the Barlow Cut and a small interpretive sign outlining some of the areas history.
This is a very short hike, and it is probably best combined with a short trek up to Barlow Point
, as they make for a full day of hiking if taken together. An easy hike for all ages, Old Government Trail isnt spectacular, but its very accessible and together with Barlow Point
gives hikers a taste of more challenging hikes in the nearby Monte Cristo
area. Next time youre out at Barlow Pass, consider adding a short side trip down the Old Government Trail #733.
The Everett and Monte Cristo
Railroad reached Barlow Pass in late 1893, largely following the rough roads and trails blazed by prospectors and explorers to bring supplies out to Monte Cristo
. As workers neared the Pass, they ran into a rocky outcropping blocking the route. Undeterred, they blasted a gap through the rock wide enough to lay track and moved on. That gap is now known as the Barlow Cut. With Monte Cristo
s burgeoning mining operations now connected to the smelters in Everett, a steady stream of trains kept the tracks busy. All that increased traffic led to predictable results. In 1905, as so often happened in that era, a spark from a locomotive started a forest fire near the tracks, which quickly spread, eventually climbing up the mountainsides of nearby Mt. Dickerman
. Today, you can still find burnt stumps along the Old Government Trail as lingering evidence of that fire.