From hikes to history and the falls, Granite Falls a worthy destination

  • Thu Jul 17th, 2014 3:16pm
  • Life

By Gale Fiege Herald Writer

It’s Granite Falls’ three-in-one tourist stop.

That’s what city planning commissioner and local historian Fred Cruger calls Granite Falls — the actual waterfall and town namesake — on the south fork of the Stillaguamish River.

There, you can see the long 40-foot falls, with its smooth granite boulders and steep hillsides, along with its parallel fish ladder and the beautiful 80-year-old Mountain Loop Highway bridge above.

The narrow multi-arched bridge over the river was built in five months in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression. It cost $40,000, or about $700,000 in today’s dollars.

“The bridge is to be replaced because it carries a lot of wide vehicles, but many people would like to see it kept as a pedestrian walkway,” Cruger said. “It’s in good shape and provides a great view of the river gorge below.”

The 540-foot fishway and its 280-foot tunnel were built in 1954, Cruger said. At the time, it was the longest of its kind in the world, helping salmon and steelhead reach their spawning grounds.

Jay Colacecchi, 56, of Lake Stevens likes to fish in the Stilly and he likes to bring visitors to the falls.

“I love this place. It’s quite a treasure,” Colacecchi said on a recent visit. “The best time to visit is in the early morning when the fog rolls up the gorge. It’s the nicest place to go when I need a quick getaway.”

Granite Falls is a small town on the way to other places, but it’s a spirited place with a great history that includes mining, logging and still-operating gravel quarries.

The best way to learn more about the area is to visit the Granite Falls Historical Museum. While its regular hours are limited to noon to 5 p.m. each Sunday, it can be opened to visitors on most days.

“All you have to do is ask,” Cruger said. To schedule a visit, call 360-691-2603 and leave a message or write a quick note to info@gfhistory.org.

The museum is housed in the old Sharp family home at 109 Union St. There you can see what life was like in town about 100 years ago.

“I’ve always enjoyed looking back to see how people solved their problems without electronics,” Cruger said.

The museum also focuses on a century of industry, education and recreation, from the founding of Granite Falls in the 1890s to today.

While you are “downtown,” give your canine a break at the dog park at the east end of Stanley Street near the library.

“It’s like the outdoor community center,” Cruger said. “Everybody goes. Granite Falls folks are animal people.”

Eateries in Granite Falls tend to be small, but lunchtime suggestions include the new Barbecue Bucket, open Thursday through Sunday at 402 E. Stanley St., and the popular Playa Bonita Mexican Restaurant, 206 E. Stanley.

“Playa Bonita is the cleanest, friendliest eating establishment in the county and it has great food,” Cruger said. “They make a great hamburger, too. If you have just visited the historical museum, tell your server and ask for the special coffee. I won’t say more. Just do it.”

For a quick hike just out of town, head southeast a short distance on Menzel Lake Road and turn left on Waite Mill Road. Look for the Lime Kiln county trailhead. The hike is about four miles, but it’s flat and you’ll see evidence of the old lime kiln and the old Everett-Monte Cristo railroad.

On the other side of town, the public is allowed to visit the Shinto Shrine at 17720 Crooked Mile Road.

Formally named the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America, the peaceful shrine is usually open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a beautiful 25-acre spot along the Pilchuck River. Visitors should remember that this is a sacred place. No food, noise or pets are allowed.

Heading northwest from Granite Falls, Jordan Road is a scenic drive that includes several parks along the South Fork Stillaguamish such as Chapel Bridge, Jordan Bridge and River Meadows County Park, where the Stillaguamish Tribe’s free Festival of the River is scheduled to take place Aug. 9 and 10.

No trip to Granite Falls would be complete without a drive east on Mountain Loop National Scenic Byway to sites in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, especially Big Four Mountain.

Make your first stop at the Verlot Public Service Center and museum in the Robe Valley, about 11 miles east of Granite. The classic building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Forest Service staff at Verlot are good at suggesting places to visit in the forest. Mount Pilchuck, Lake 22, Heather Lake, Mount Dickerman and Goat Lake are nearby, for example.

At the Big Four Mountain picnic area up the road, take the trail to the ice caves. The trail isn’t long, but approach the mountain base with caution. It is not safe to go into the glacial caves or even get very close because falling ice and rocks. Take your binoculars.

Back at the picnic area, learn about the former three-story, 50-room Big Four Inn built in 1920 and destroyed by fire in 1949. All that remains is the hearth and chimney from the lodge fireplace and the beautiful view of the 6,153-foot Big Four Mountain.

Artist David Yengich, of Marysville, was there earlier this month painting the mountain.

“When the weather is nice, I try to get outside to paint,” he said. “Big Four is a great place.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

For more Tourist in Your Own Town stories, go to www.heraldnet.com/tourist.

In each of our cities in Snohomish and Island counties, we have tourist attractions often overlooked by the people who live in this region. Have you taken the time to be a Tourist in Your Own Town? This the seventh in a continuing series of monthly explorations of our hometowns.

Learn more

  • www.waterfallsnorthwest.com
  • www.gfhistory.org
  • www.playabonitarestaurant.com
  • www.fs.usda.gov
  • www.festivaloftheriver.com
  • www.tsubakishrine.org