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Field Report: Robe Canyon

The town of Robe is no more.

Once occupied by hundreds of miners and railroad workers, the town vanished after rains in steep Robe Canyon washed away the train tracks that led to the town. When the precious resources that predicated the town were depleted, the place vanished.

(Like ghost towns? Read about the nearby ghost town of Monte Cristo)

The trailhead to Robe Canyon could not be easier to access. You simply pull off the road and onto the shoulder of the Mountain Loop Highway, a few miles outside of the town of Granite Falls. 

One of several railroad tunnels on the trail.

The trail leads you down a series of steep switchbacks and through a small patch of wetlands to the Stillaguamish River. From there you can trace the train tracks of the Robe Canyon Railroad along the banks of the river as the walls of the canyon rise to the east and the roar of the Stilly fills your ears with white noise. 

It’s incredible to think that there was ever a railroad in this narrow and steep canyon. If you hike far enough, you will come to a series of railroad tunnels that were blasted into the rocky sides of the canyons by railroad workers over a century before. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll also see old bricks, iron railroad tracks, wooden railroad ties, and even the remnants of old train trestles that have been undercut by the raging currents of the Stilly River.

Please don't pass the "do not pass" signs. Things get pretty steep and slippery on the old tracks and the railroad tunnels are prone to cave-ins.

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At 2.4 miles roundtrip, Robe Canyon makes for an excellent day hike, as long as you can manage the switchbacks coming out of the canyon. 

Here’s what else you need to know before you go.

-The trail is narrow on the switchbacks. If you’re in descent, surrender the right of way to hikers coming uphill, as this is proper trail etiquette. 

-Stay on the path and watch your footholds near the river. There are some steep rocks and the canyon walls grow steeper as you hike. At several points, there are waterfalls that flow over the path. Aluminum hiking poles are recommended. 

Managing Editor
Richard Porter
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