Doing the Mountain Loop Highway - Granite Falls to Darrington, WA

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Timmer, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    Up in the western part of Washington state is a road that is known as the Mountain Loop Highway which runs between Granite Falls and Darrington, Washington. The road played a very significant part in the history of the local area. For more information do a search on the Barlow Pass or Monte Cristo. I've travelled to that area since I was a child to go fishing (I caught my only steelhead up in that area). Later on I would travel up there to hike and camp. Then for a number of years I didn't pay it a visit. It didn't help that the road became blocked for a number of years as a result of slides and erosion. Finally a few years ago, the road was re-opened and I yearned to return and ride it for my first time on a motorcycle.

    The road is about 50 miles in length and a section about 12 miles long is not paved. It is also known as Forest Service Road 20. So let's begin our little day trip.

    My friend Bob recently purchased a Weestrom (Suzuki DL650) with the purpose of using it as a dual sport. I ride a BMW F650GS. With these two mounts, after a few false starts, we decide that today will be a good day to sneak in a ride along the highway before it's closed for the winter. So we ride from our homes in south Seattle to the little town of Granite Falls which is NE of Everett, Wa. My route takes us on back roads through Woodinville, Monroe, & Lake Stevens before we arrive at our fuel stop and breakfast in Granite Falls.

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    A little breakfast tasted good after our 2 hour ride up here. We also gassed up. The bikes are sure looking clean. Will that last?

    To access the Mountain Loop Highway, one just heads east on WA92 through Granite Falls to the east side of town and then turn left onto the highway.

    The road is paved for the first 30 or so miles. Along the way we pass by a favorite place I've visited over the years.

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    We didn't hike to the caves this day. In fact, nobody did. We only saw 2 cars on the ride to Darrington and 3 on the way back. It's a quiet day on this damp Friday.

    The road looks a lot like this for most of the 30 miles.

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    Then we see the following:

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    Looks promising. Then this and gravel.

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    Riding along this gravel section, we begin to be treated with lots of nice scenery.

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    Of course, we need to know where we are so there's an identification sign in the middle of the unimproved section.

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    Then there's the moss. Lots of it and in all colors and on all sorts of objects.

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    Soon we arrive at our destination. It's not a bad sign for a city entrance which is really the back door.

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    Arriving at our destination restaurant, the bike cried out.

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    Did I mention the gravel road was a bit "damp" and muddy? It was very compact and a fun road to ride on a dual sport.

    During lunch, Bob and I were jubilant about the road and decided to ride it back the way we came so we could re-enjoy the experience.

    So off we head for Granite Falls. Arriving at the start of the gravel, we're greeted by these signs. :thumb:thumb

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    There were lots of little waterfalls along the way. This is one of them.

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    I think someone has forgotten to clean the sign in a while.

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    It looks like we're in the middle of nowhere.
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    Here's one of the river crossings.

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    Of course, our route takes us close to the river and rock cliffs.

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    At the end of the gravel we came upon this "parking" place. It's actually a way to get to Monte Cristo which is a ghost town.

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    We're once again on the pavement and I decide to pull into the Big 4 rest area for a little break. At the turn of the century there was a lodge here along the route of the now removed railroad. Here's some history.

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    We're also greeted by a friend.
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    And then there's some nearby snow.

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    Sadly, as we are leaving, we take a picture of the entrance to the area Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

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    Leaving the Mountain Loop Highway we chased the sun to make it home before dark. Guess what? We lost! Sunset was around 4:40 this day and I didn't arrive home until around 5:30pm. But it was a wonderful day riding the Mountain Loop Highway. If you are in the area, consider riding it. You'll not be disappointed.
    #1
  2. 243Win

    243Win Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the ride report. I was not aware that road was gravel at some point. I'll have to wander up there.
    #2
  3. YnotJP?

    YnotJP? Long timer

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    Timmer, thanks for the report. It has been about 40 years since I have been to Monte Cristo. I did the hike up to Goat Lake at that time.

    Looks as if you two had a nice ride, have to watch out for those wet leaves this time of year.

    Is the CDT still in your 2011 plans?

    Thanks for taking us along.
    #3
  4. Drewski

    Drewski Adventurer

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    Thanks for the ride report and pic's! Last time I rode it was 3 years ago or some. Thanks.
    #4
  5. kwisn

    kwisn One Happy Dog

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    I've never done that loop. Thanks for the pics!
    #5
  6. Mr. Cob

    Mr. Cob Howling "Mad", Adventurer

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    Granite Falls, Washington State, USA
    Howdy Tim,

    Nice photos, thanks for posting them. Next time your up this way give a holler that is if you don't mind riding with a Granite Falls redneck and his Ural. :evil
    #6
  7. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    Mr. Cob,

    I thought of contacting you when I was in GF and would ride with a GF redneck in a Ural any day. I'd like to ride FS17 sometime and even redo the Mountain Loop Highway. It's one of those special roads from my past.

    Would you PM me contact information & directions to your house.

    Tim

    #7
  8. Mr. Cob

    Mr. Cob Howling "Mad", Adventurer

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    Howdy Tim,

    PM on the way, if your going to ride FSR 17, do it soon the snow is coming, I rode with Chris today to the top of Green Mountain and FSR 4060, we reached the end of the road in both cases but the snow was getting deep. :evil
    #8
  9. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    Dave,

    Got the PM and replied.

    It'll probably not be until next summer before I can do that. From the Mountain Loop Highway, it looked like the snow level was around 2,500 feet and I know it's getting much colder over the next few days.

    #9
  10. Mr. Cob

    Mr. Cob Howling "Mad", Adventurer

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    Howdy Tim,

    The snow started along side of the road at around 3,000' at 3,700' the top of Green Mountain and FSR 4060 it was about a foot deep. Soon the MLH will be closed a few miles east of Silverton, soon the snow will block all of the FSR's above 1,500-2,000'
    #10
  11. Faulkner

    Faulkner Patriot

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    :thumb
    #11
  12. MtRainier

    MtRainier WHEELS UP

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    Kent, WA
    Looks and sounds like you had a great day Tim. Quality photos as usual.
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    Thanks for sharing.

    Keep Going!
    #12
  13. Roper

    Roper Idiot savant

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    Everett or Oroville, WA
    Does this look familiar...?

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    #13
  14. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    Yup.
    #14
  15. Mr. Cob

    Mr. Cob Howling "Mad", Adventurer

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    Howdy Roper,

    You mean like this...........
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    #15
  16. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    I want to go back!!:clap:clap
    #16
  17. Mr. Cob

    Mr. Cob Howling "Mad", Adventurer

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    Howdy All,

    These were taken about a year after the last big wash out, a couple of years later it was washed out so bad you couldn't ride the edge as we did here.

    I am on the Yellow DRZ, my friend Jack is on the White XT.
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    After they blocked the south end of the road it didn't take long before the old road bed was almost completely washed away, many trees were fallen on the road way, the muddy bypasses around the big fallen trees were a real mofoer to get around.

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    Some trees were easier to go under rather then over or around.
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    The MLH is now pretty much a dirt freeway, there was a time when it was a real ADV ride. :wink:
    #17
  18. Timmer

    Timmer Curious Adventurer

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    Dave,

    Thanks for the history lesson & pictures. Those washout pictures are a lot like the ones I've taken of the Griptwister over on the Olympic Peninsula.

    Tim
    #18
  19. trippda

    trippda Adventurer

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    Right on man!

    I just came across this, and really like that ride. Wish there was a bit more dirt though! I am new to the area and found it last summer. I cannot wait to explore the NF way more this summer.:clap
    #19
  20. Rainier_Rider

    Rainier_Rider Gone

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    Delete this account.
    Always wished the Monte Cristo gate sign said 'Motorcycles OK'.
    And the old road hooked into the unmapped Galena trail near Index.
    That would be cool.
    #20