There’s a place seemingly forgotten by time and civilization about an hour and a half from Redmond.
It’s a getaway where old growth trees in an untouched ancient forest rise skyward above waterfalls and rapids crashing over moss-covered boulders. A place to forget the challenges and stress of everyday life. On the scenic Mountain Loop Highway, is the Boulder River Trail, which can afford a well-needed wilderness sojourn at any time of year.
Starting out at 1,000 feet and climbing to a modest 1,600 feet in elevation, this trail is suitable for families with small children, and those with varying levels of fitness.
This low elevation means it is accessible year-round in all but the harshest of winters and provides a cool, shady sanctuary in the heat of summer. The trail is lined with wildflowers in spring and mushrooms and ripe berries in fall.
The trail begins on an abandoned railroad grade, but soon turns into a gentle trail in virgin old growth forest. You will hear the roar of Boulder Falls in the steep canyon below, but will not be able to see it. There will be many more waterfalls easily viewed from the trail after this point.
The trail follows the river through a deep protected, seemingly primordial canyon. After about ½ mile, you enter the Boulder River Wilderness. Due to its protected status, this area boasts massive ancient trees that include Douglas fir, hemlock, and Western red cedar, some of which are nearly 6 feet in diameter.
Soon after entering the wilderness, you will see the first of a series of falls and rapids. At approximately 1¼ miles, a majestic waterfall appears across the river, splitting into two separate falls as it cascades down the rocky cliffs. Many consider these the most beautiful falls along the trail. You can descend the path down to the river across from the base of the fall, where you will discover a great place to take photos, as well as some nice rocks to sit on.
Most people will end their hike 4 miles in at Boulder Ford. Those who are more experienced at route-finding and bushwhacking may continue across the river and up to the Three Fingers fire lookout. This route was abandoned long ago and is not maintained.
This wilderness protects some of the last contiguous areas of untouched old growth forest in the state. The Boulder River is the largest drainage in this wilderness, and this trail affords hikers a rare opportunity to experience true wilderness and virgin forest.
How To Get There
From Interstate 5, take exit 208/Silvana/Arlington, and drive east on Highway 530 about 19.5 miles. Turn right on French Creek Road (FS 2010). Drive 3.7 miles to the end of the road and the trailhead.
Good To Know
Maps: Green Trails Oso No. 77.
U.S. Forest Service
Trail Information: fs.usda.gov
Dogs are allowed on leashes.