Historically significant and naturally beautiful, the trail through Robe Canyon is a worthy hiking destination any time of year.
120 years ago, railroad crews faced the daunting challenge of building tracks along a flood-prone river to connect the mines at Monte Cristo with the smelters in Everett. A narrow canyon east of Granite Falls proved to be a particularly challenging spot to lay tracks; frequent floods and rock slides destroyed not only the tracks, but also the settlement of Robe. The repair costs were high, and the line was eventually abandoned. Fortunately, today’s hikers can still enjoy the area thanks to a Boy Scout troop, who built the trail in the 1960s, and the Snohomish County Parks Department, who created the Robe Canyon Historic Park in the 1990s.
The well-maintained trail quickly leaves the Mountain Loop Highway behind as it descends 300 feet down a steep bluff toward the Stillaguamish River. A series of gentle switchbacks makes the trip down (and back up) easy on the knees. The river bottom is wide and lush with maples and cottonwoods, making this an ideal place to soak your feet while soaking up the sun.
Paralleling the river, the trail begins to show signs of the flooding that made this stretch so problematic for workers more than a century ago; undercut banks and eroded trail are prevalent, but easily manageable for hikers today. The roar of the river soon rises as the water is funneled through narrowing canyon walls, creating frothy rapids and churning eddies. Here, too, is the first tangible evidence that a railroad once ran this way. Walking atop the old railroad ties, it is easy to imagine the mining days of yore and to conjure up images of rusty railroad cars chock-full of ore rolling down the bumpy tracks.
At 1.2 miles, a rockslide blocks the path, marking the official end of the trail, and once again confirming the difficulties that railroad engineers faced so long ago. The trail past this point is closed to the public.
Old Robe Canyon
- 4.8 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 350 feet
- Highest Point
- 1,050 feet
The trail is closed about a mile in due to landslides.
Hiking Old Robe Canyon
Old Robe Canyon
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 48.1101, -121.8558 Open in Google Maps