Journey Back In Time
Lime Kiln Trail, Granite Falls
Lime Kiln Trail in Granite Falls, is a 6.7 mile (in and out) trail located just outside of the city. I would rate this one difficult length wise but still fairly flat and easy for most of the trail. Just make sure you pack in lots of water and wear super broke in hiking shoes or you feet will grace you with blisters unlike you’ve ever seen like mine did. I was ready for the challenge and rose to it, even though my shoes did not.
Above all else, pace yourself (slow and steady), and you will hardly notice the distance. If you are on the slower side, or like to stop, enjoy nature, and take photos along the way like me, allow yourself 3-4 hours, depending on if you stop at the kiln or continue to the end where there is river access. We did the latter.
Why hike this trail? That’s an easy answer, the history and bits of pieces of it you will find along the trail. The short and sweet version is that several communities could once be found in the area surrounding the trail. The area was also home to a railroad, logging operations, and perhaps the most prominent feature, a massive Lime Kiln, which was used to transform limestone into lime for local smelters.
While the Kiln, a few spots of mangled railway derbies, and miscellaneous artifacts remain, the communities themselves and all other operations have been gone for 80+ years. There are signs along the way pointing out former locations and information is available at the trail head itself or online. It is definitely worth checking out if you are interested in local history. Now on to the trail.
The trail does start off with a bit of an incline. It is one of maybe three or four spots where you will face a decent incline on the way in or out, but they are doable. About a mile in you will come to the end of the nice wide trail and officially start getting your hike on. You will go from bright open light to a dark covered forest. If you listen carefully, and are lucky as we were, you will hear an owl hoo-hooing you along. Exactly what any trek through a dark forest needs to make it truly exciting.
As you emerge you will find the split off to the Robe Canyon Trail and begin a decent that will be challenging on the return trip. At the bottom you will get the first historic railroad sign then begin the longest part of the trail which follows along the canyon and Stillaguamish River (amazing views but most photography blocked by trees and bushes).
You will soon come across perhaps the best part of the trail as far as I’m concerned, a trickling water spring coming off the hillside. This is a must stop point going both directions as the water is clean, amazing, and refreshingly cold even in the heat of summer. It might also just be a lifesaver as it was for me when, I got left behind in the dust with an almost empty water bottle on the return trip.
From this point forward you will begin to see artifacts along the side of the trail, so keep an eye out. The SnoCo Kid and I also came up with some fun landmarks along the way. Here is what to watch for (reverse on your way out):
> A naked, and oddly bent over, tree (you will know it when you see it)
> The one bench found on the trail
> A tunnel of fallen trees
> A tall tree root blocking the path, one which looks like the boogie man on the return side (or insert starfish / ninja here for the kids), and just so happens to have what appears to be a horses face on the cross through side
> An increasing number of metal artifacts found along the side of the trail, including pieces of lumber cutting blades.
> The kiln itself, you won’t be able to miss it.
Here with be the point where you can decide to turn back or push on to the end of the trail which features a loop down to the river and a view of an old (mostly gone) railroad bridge located just under a mile further. I had been dying for an unobstructed photo of the river the whole hike, so, ignoring tired feet, we pushed on.
When you reach the sign breaking off to the loop, I recommend entering from the railroad bridge. Going that direction allows you to take the whole loop, see everything, and take it mostly downhill instead of uphill.
Once you reach the river, really take the time to enjoy it. Around you, you will find gravity defying rocks that others have stacked during their time there, rapids to one side, and calm, shallow, and cool water to the other side. If you look across from the sand portion you will also see a pretty cool tangled pile of railroad remnants.
We used our time to take in the views, take off our shoes, soak our feet, and make friends with an adorable frog. With darkness looming, and a long trek back to make, our time river side was brief, but still well worth it. I highly recommend the extra journey if you have the time and energy to make it.
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