Best of all, it's snow free pretty much all year.
I visited the trail recently on a cold, clear day. Under the trees, we were in the shade, but from time to time we'd pass through patches of brilliant sun. The sun was rapidly melting the frost that covered everything. The tiny drops of ice and water that fell from the trees scattered the light in tiny rainbows.
About a mile in, the trail enters the Boulder River Wilderness and then passes by an impressive waterfall. Even in the winter, it's flowing pretty well. If you're out for a short trip, or hiking with young kids, this would be a good spot to turn around.
If not, continue on. The trail continues, rolling, along the river, which is gorgeous. The forest is dense and covered in moss and many fungi. The day we hiked, icicles were hanging from nearly everything, including shelf fungi along the trail.
We also saw a ton of the fascinating hair ice and frost flowers, a phenomenon I've only ever seen in the Northwest.
Frost flowers and hair ice are created when liquid water freezes and is exuded in a thin sheet or string, usually from wood. I've also seen it, though, on patches of moist soil. (Perhaps a rotten log was buried underneath.)
The little bits of hair ice look like tiny filaments collected together. They're delicate and enchanting. On our hike, my friend and I spent a lot of time admiring them.
We didn't go the whole length of the trail. We wandered a few miles before having lunch and hot tea. Then we headed back leisurely. If you'd like to do the whole hike, the trail eventually dead ends at a ford of the river.
To get there
Boulder River is off Highway 530 on the way to Darrington. To get there, follow Highway 530 east from Arlington. Just after milepost 41, turn right on French Creek Road/Forest Road 2010. The turn is just after a small development of houses. There is no privy at the trailhead, but there is one about 2 miles up the forest road on your way there. The trailhead is just under 4 miles from Highway 530.
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