The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)

The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)

Darrington considering movable, tiny cabins as lodging lure

The plan is for high school students, working with construction pros, to help build the cabins.

DARRINGTON — One or two new tiny cabins could be set up for overnight stays here as soon as this summer.

A survey is online now to round up thoughts from people interested in a place to stay near Darrington. The plan is for high school students to help build the cabins.

“There’s definitely a need … for unique lodging opportunities,” said Adrienne Hall, the tourism coordinator for Darrington who previously worked for the U.S. Forest Service. “We don’t have the Hiltons or the really nice high-end hotels out here, but we want a few more options for people who want to get away from those fancy hotels and just have a nice, comfortable, dry place to stay and explore all there is to do out here.”

Local leaders have been focused on improving the outdoor recreation industry in the Stillaguamish Valley. People are drawn to the area to hike, bike, camp and raft or kayak on the river. There are new mountain biking trails, annual music festivals and an archery range where national competitions are held.

However, there aren’t many places to stay.

The lack of lodging came up during a series of rural tourism workshops that included the Stillaguamish Valley, said Amy Spain, director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. Overnight visitors spend significantly more money in communities than day-trippers, according to research by the bureau. During the workshops, participants looked at gaps in services and infrastructure.

Similar work was done with people living in the Sauk, Snohomish and Skykomish river valleys.

“The purpose was for the river valleys to go through a process to think about what their tourism destiny is,” Spain said. “We ended with OK, where do we go from here?”

Hall has been working to tackle the lodging issue. She drew inspiration from the town’s planning efforts during the nationwide America’s Best Communities competition, in which Darrington and Arlington teamed up and advanced to the finals.

“One of the projects that has kind of floated to the top is developing tiny cabins for the outdoor recreation community when they come up to hike or raft on the rivers or use the North Mountain bike trails as well as the Whitehorse Trail,” Hall said.

Hall recalled a previous project where students learning construction skills at Darrington High School remodeled a Forest Service building.

A similar approach could be used for the cabins, she said. Students would work with experienced builders to make the tiny cabins, which would be easy to move from venue to venue. The teens could gain valuable skills, and the town could add lodging options on a tight budget.

Hall hopes work can begin soon so one or two cabins would be ready for a test run this summer.

Information from the online survey will help shape the cabins. Participants are asked what they value most: proximity to businesses; storage; water access; group gathering space; toilet and shower; cooking area; wireless internet. It also touches on potential prices, with a range from $55 to $100-plus per night.

“This is the first of a few surveys that we’re going to send out,” Hall said. “This is a broad survey to find out what activities people engage in when they come up to Darrington, what time of year are they up here, and, when they do come up here, what their preference for overnight stays would be.”

The survey is expected to be open for at least another month.

A few months ago, Hall went to a tiny home convention in Portland to gather ideas. Some of those homes were ritzy. Darrington’s cabins would be simple and rustic, she said.

“The people who come out here are kind of no-frills, adventure travelers,” she said.

“They maybe don’t need wifi access or a hot shower right there in the cabin. They can walk to the county park to shower. They can cook outside.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

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