In our book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Seattle, Andrew Weber and I barely mention one of the coolest and most unique hikes in the region. It just gets one paragraph as a “Nearby Activity” tagged onto the hike description for Lime Kiln Trail, but it deserves much more. The reason the trail didn’t get a full feature is because it is relatively short (about 1.5 miles each way).
But, this little-known trail is one of my favorites. The eeriness of the damp, rocky canyon makes it hard to believe that it was once a popular passenger train route. This particular rail line was built in the late 1800s to bring gold and silver to Everett from the mining town of Monte Cristo. After the Monte Cristo mining operations shut down in the early 1900s, the tracks became more valuable for tourism. Frequent floods and railway repairs eventually made this scenic train trip unprofitable, so it was abandoned. The tunnels remain and can be walked in their entirety without headlamps (they aren’t long). The railroad foundations are the trail surface along the river, but the wooden components have washed away.
See the map above for the trailhead location on the Mountain Loop Highway, 7 miles east of Granite Falls, WA. There is a brick monument next to the trail entrance on the south side of the road. Look for a safe spot to park well off the highway or along Green Mountain Road. The trail descends on switchbacks toward the river. There is a small river access point where the trail finally meets the river, but beware of high water. From there, the trail follows the west side of the river on an old railroad line that was blasted into the cliff just a few feet above the water line. When the river is raging, like during spring runoff or after heavy rains, it can be distracting when trying to navigate the uneven foundation. This hike in not for small children due to the careful navigation required. The trail finally ends at a steep washout just past a tunnel. Here’s a color topographic map of the Old Robe Canyon Trail.
Landmarks on this map
Trailhead for Robe Canyon Hike
Access to Stillaguamish River
End of the Trail