John Guilford's Hikes
Robe Valley on 1994-04-23
People: (including myself): Pam, Rick Kline
Start: 3:45 0
River: 4:10 1
Tunnel 6: 4:35 1.6
Tunnel 5: 4:45 1.8
Turn Around: 5:25 2.25?
Tunnel 5: 6:10
Tunnel 6: 6:17
Due to making a pheresis donation in the morning, I wasn't available until
later in the day to start, so we had to make a shorter hike, hence Robe
Valley. The weather forecasters were calling for a cold front to move
through with chance of thunderstorms in the Cascades. However, in early
afternoon the sky was clear and sunny and it was too good of a day to waste
at home. We packed some rain gear and flashlights and headed out.
The trailhead is alongside the mountain loop highway a few miles before
Verlot, across from Road #41 to Tupso pass. Right at the trailhead is a
nice wood and masonry sign announcing the Robe Valley that was put there in
'93 as an Eagle Scout project by David Ripperger from Lake Stevens.
The trail does a short meander through some somewhat muddy patches before
emerging from the trees to overlook a large sunken alluvial terrace. Despite
the rather bleak appearance of the terrain, it does offer good views of the
eastern side of Mt. Pilchuck. The trail takes a left turn and begins a
long smooth descent in the form of a single large switchback. As you
descend, you pass through patches of trees and clearings. The area is
relatively damp with much moss along the ground and hanging from the trees.
At the base of the switchback, you join a dirt road and turn right towards
the river. The road/trail passes through some wetlands areas that have a
curious plant. It is a dark green shoot that didn't have any leaves or
needles and a segmented stalk. I thought it could be bamboo, while Pam
thought that it was horsetail. To me the absence of little scales or a
spiky conical top made it look distinctly different form the horsetail.
Shortly thereafter, you reach the Stillaguamish River and turn right to
follow it downstream along the old railway bed.
As you progress downstream, the river starts narrowing as it approaches the
gorge where the tunnels lie. Along the way, it is easy to notice
(actually, it would be very hard not to notice) the remains of the old
Monte Cristo Railway that used to go through the Robe Valley before it got
washed out too many times and was abandoned. There are a couple side
creeks that had to be crossed (without difficulty) before you get to
Tunnel 6. The tunnels are numbered from West to East, hence you reach
Tunnel 6 before Tunnel 5. All of these tunnels are abandoned railway
tunnels that have some amount of rockfall inside. Tunnel 6 is relatively
short (one can easily see completely through it from either end) and
doesn't require flashlights to navigate around the rock fall. A short walk
past Tunnel 6 lies Tunnel 5. This one is a bit longer with a slight bend
in the middle. It is just enough so that you can't see the exit from the
entrance, though the two openings provide enough light to navigate through
the tunnel w/out lights. (ed. note: I got the descriptions backwards on
the tunnels - the first one is the longer one and the second one is the
Around here the river turns frothy white as it flows over rocks and small
cataracts and falls. This is the most scenic part of the hike. Just past
Tunnel 5, "the grade enters a deep cut blocked by a heap of debris
(Tunnel 4, collapsed) over which the path clambers."
Beyond this one gets to the 'bridge.' This is a since span of concrete
with a flat top about 3' wide. This is most likely part of a retaining
wall that has collapsed in the middle. The bottom part of the bridge looks
like it is composed of alternating wood and concrete with a concrete top.
It is easy to walk along the top from one side to the other (and many
people do), although those with fear of heights might be bothered by the
vertical 30' drop on either side. For the less adventuresome, the path
continues around the rock chute that passes under the tunnel.
A short distance later, one reaches the mouth of Tunnel 3, the normal
turn-around spot. The entrance to Tunnel 3 is partially blocked by debris,
though it is still relatively easy to enter. The exit is completely
blocked off, however, so transits are not possible. It is dark inside and
flashlights are required. Optimally, everyone should have their own light
as the footing is uneven and tricky at times. It helps to be able to light
the spot where you're stepping.
When we entered the tunnel it was still sunny out. After discovering that
there wasn't any other exit, we returned to the beginning of the tunnel to
discover that the sky had turned grey and cloudy and was threatening rain.
We were interested in seeing how much further the trail continued so we
pressed forth. The trail continues past the tunnel entrance, although the
quality of the trail is markedly poorer than before the tunnel (since few
people continue past this tunnel). It skirts the gorge side of the tunnel
entrance and steeply climbs up over the rocky outcropping that caused them
railway builders to make the tunnel in the first place. It is a straight
forward scramble over the top and down the far side, though there is no
maintained trail beyond.
At this point, it started raining lightly. Three things conspired to make
this a good turn around time for us: it was getting late, we were at the
end of the trail, and it was beginning to rain. Judging from the clouds,
it wasn't unreasonable to think that we might get dumped on some time in
the future, but that's what rain gear is for.
On the way back out, Pam collected moss for a moss basket she is making.
There is so much moss of differing characteristics, that she had her choice
in selecting just what she wanted, ending up with some longer stringier
moss from the trees over Tunnel 3 and thicker carpet moss from the ground
near the trail head.
Pam and a misc. hiker crossing the "bridge".
View from inside tunnel: Pam and Rick visible.
Please send comments or corrections to
Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015