By Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood
Special to The Herald
From logging town to outdoor adventure hub, Darrington has come a long way over the years. Today, you can enjoy miles of hiking and biking trails along the Mountain Loop Highway, or spend your time paddling, fishing, camping — you name it.
At the end of the day, slow down, meet the locals, and enjoy “beer at an appropriate pace.”
Here’s one trail-and-ale pairing to keep you coming back for more.
Green Mountain …
With such an ordinary name, Green Mountain could be easily overlooked by those researching their next hike in the North Cascades. The mountain is certainly green. But to judge this classic trail by its name would be a mistake.
Beyond its emerald forest and fern meadows, Green Mountain offers a challenging workout among wildflowers and wildlife to a historic lookout — complete with panoramic Cascade mountain views.
More than anything else, Green Mountain is a place to be thankful for. Flooding and a landslide cut off access to the trailhead for several years. The mountaintop lookout has survived more than 80 years of vicious winter storms and the threat of removal. Fortunately, various organizations and volunteers have repaired the Suiattle River Road and preserved Green Mountain Lookout for hikers willing to make the drive to this 8.5-mile roundtrip trek.
Speaking of the drive, the road to Green Mountain is long. Plan on spending 60 to 90 minutes driving from Darrington. It’s easy to take the Suiattle River Road for granted when you’re bumping along it, peering down on its namesake river and asking the driver, “are we there yet?” every so often. But for anyone who’s never attempted Green Mountain, let us assure you: The drive is worth it.
Upon arrival, it’s finally time to hit the trail. It begins in the forest as any “green” trail should, climbing past some big Doug firs.
Enjoy the shade while you can; it becomes scarcer once you break out of the trees in about 1.5 miles. Here, the landscape changes dramatically. Climb through colorful meadows that are blooming with wildflowers during summer and bursting with berries in the fall.
The trail enters Glacier Peak Wilderness before dropping 100 feet to a pair of small ponds. Look up to Green Mountain Lookout from here, some 1,300 feet and one trail mile above. If you’re tempted to turn around at this point, don’t. You’ll miss the best part.
Listen for pika, ptarmigan, and marmots as you climb. The notorious marmots are especially fearless out here.
As Harvey Manning tells it in “100 Classic Hikes in Washington,” Ira Spring was once “bullied off the trail by a belligerent marmot” at Green Mountain, perhaps 20 years ago. We spotted a few toward the end of our hike, just upon reaching the lookout.
The lookout itself, standing at 6,500 feet above sea level, was originally constructed in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a fire lookout.
Today it is surrounded on three sides by a catwalk, allowing hikers to walk around back for views of Mount Baker to the north. Glacier Peak is the star of the show, but look in any direction and you’ll find more peaks and valleys than we can name here.
Autumn is arguably the best time to hike Green Mountain. Colors are vibrant, and cooler temperatures keep the biting flies away.
If you tackle this trail during summer, be sure to bring plenty of bug spray, water and sunscreen.
Getting there: From Darrington travel north on State Route 530 for 7.5 miles, turning right onto Forest Road 26 (Suiattle River Road). Follow FR 26 first on pavement, then on gravel for 19 miles, turning left onto FR 2680. Continue six miles to the trailhead. No pass required.
River Time Brewing
From inside Darrington’s Old City Hall, River Time Brewing serves up fine craft beer with a generous helping of friendly conversation. You’re likely to pull up a stool at the bar next to more than one local who will happily recommend a brew to your liking — a reflection of the tight-knit community. On summer weekends, the taproom fills up with hikers and outdoorsmen grabbing a post-adventure pint.
Founded by Lon Tierney and Troy Bullock in September 2013, River Time Brewing moved from its original taproom location on the Sauk River to its current brewhouse in the Old City Hall. A true piece of history, the building was the bustling center of town — fire station, police station, library, dancehall — you name it and it probably happened here. Revived with a new purpose, the building is again full of life (take a moment to check out the artwork on the River Wall).
Then there’s the excellent taplist. Winner of a silver at the Washington Beer Awards, the Scottish Ale shouldn’t be missed — its balanced sweetness and hints of roasted toffee will help you forget your sore limbs. And if your thirst for adventure isn’t quenched just yet, challenge yourself with the Pepper Kolsch — brewed with the spicy kick of jalapeño and Serrano, with lingering heat. Can’t decide? Grab a sample tray (equivalent to two pints) and try them all.
Getting there: From Mountain Loop Highway, turn west onto Darrington Street. Take the third left onto Emens Avenue North. The brewery is on the left with parking in the back; 660 Emens Ave., Darrington; rivertimebrewing.com. Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday; to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday to Wednesday.