P-5000 Road to Spada Lake

P-5000 Road to Spada Lake

I decided to scout the the old P-5000 road (now called Forest Road 6126) that runs along the Pilchuck river after reading WTA user mato’s reports and doing a little research. Apparently people could drive this road all the way from Menzel Lake Road to Spada Lake 30 or 40 years ago, and it was a popular motorcycle trail until a boy was killed in 2005 and they restricted it to non-motorized travel. I wanted to see if it was still possible to hike the entire route to Spada Lake, and there was only one way to find out.

The road begins at a gate off Menzel Lake Road about 5 miles southeast of Granite Falls. The first eight miles are an easy, pleasant river walk. Then you come to a pile of trees across the road and things quickly go south. At 8.5 miles, the full-on bushwhack begins.

Entering the bushwhack section.

For the next five miles, you will be pushing aside bushes, scrambling over trees and up and down washouts, while making sure you’re still on the road. It’s not as bad as it looks, but it’s definitely a grind. There was a faint trail most of the way and it’s usually not hard to figure out where the road is by following the corridor through the trees.

At about nine miles you come to a ruined bridge over Wilson creek, but it’s an easy scramble and ford to get back on track.

The ruined bridge over Wilson creek (9 miles in).

I hammock-camped in the forest above the road; everything was covered in moss, a reminder that this area gets heavy rain. About 13 miles in I came to a crossing of Pilchuck River that I was concerned about from looking at the maps. As it turns out it’s no problem; there’s a ruined bridge that can still be walked across.

The ruined bridge over Pilchuck River (13 miles in).

Then you hit a perfectly maintained forest road—a beautiful sight after all the bushwhacking—that takes you down to the Culmback Dam on Spada Lake—which is another beautiful sight after having no views but trees and bushes for miles.The entire route to the dam was about 15 miles. From there it was a long road-walk down to Gold Bar and refreshments, ending a long but adventurous 24 hours.

At Spada Lake. Mission accomplished!

I liked the post-apocalyptic feel of this scouting mission; this is what hiking will be like after civilization collapses, when everything is overgrown and falling to ruin and nature reclaims the land. Is this is a glimpse of our future? Shadow Scout thinks so!

Squire Creek Pass

Squire Creek Pass

At Squire Pass.

Starting in Darrington, I walked a loop of about 20 miles over Squire Creek Pass. I road-walked about 3.7 miles to the Squire Creek trailhead and hammock-camped near the creek. The next morning I hiked up to the pass, which gets very overgrown and rocky toward the top. The pass area is a large flat rock surface good for camping, with spectacular views of the nearby peaks. I hiked down the other side via Eight-mile Trail, which is very rocky and steep in places (poles are helpful). Then I walked five miles on forest road 2060, connected to the Frog Lake Trail down to Mountain Loop Highway, cooled off in Clear Creek, and walked the highway back to Darrington.

One of many old-growth trees on this trail.

This was a surprisingly tough hike! You have to tread carefully over rocky slopes while bushwhacking and looking for the trail, and your knees will take a pounding going down Eight-mile trail. Don’t expect a mild, well-groomed, easy to follow trail. But the reward is a very nice wilderness area featuring rugged mountains, clear creeks and old-growth trees that you will probably have all to yourself (I didn’t see a soul). You are only a few miles from Darrington, but it feels much more remote.

Nice view of Whitehorse Mountain.
Nice view of Three Fingers as you approach the pass.