Several notable places along the way

Gravel-ish Mountain Loop Loop

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The goal today was to make the 100 mile loop around the Mountain Loop Highway (Arlington, Darrington, Barlow Pass, Granite Falls, Arlington). I started in downtown Arlington just after 6am in a moist haze and windbreaker. Because of the slide on the initial section of the Whitehorse (shown in this ride here), I took SR-530 to just east of Jim Creek road and took a left on 139th to the junction with the Whitehorse. I proceeded on the Whitehorse Trail on good packed 5/8" minus. The trail canopy is lush in most spots and I was surprised at the shade I was able to take advantage of. A couple sections near SR-530 crossings are paved but it is a gravel rail bed and a bit grassy near Darrington. Sticker vines are threatning tires unless you stay in the center of the trail. There is a second slide/erosion area of the trail just east of the Fairgrounds but just stay away from the edge and you'll be fine. After reaching Darrington I headed South on the Mountain Loop Hwy. You go about 8 miles on pavement until you get dirt.  The dirt section of the highway is in great shape and graded well by Snohomish county crews. It does get some potholes, obviously, but I was impressed. There are nice views of the Sauk River along the way and I started on a side road also to go up to see North Fork Falls but bailed since it was all up and I'd get plenty of vertical today. After getting to Barlow Pass, I decided against the double track loop at Monte Cristo since a rescue mission was going on in the area. I took a little snack break and then started the descent down the highway. This descent was a fun part of the trip! I made a side trip through the Big Four Ice Cave parking areas and then continued on. The mountain loop highway is not always a good shoulder for bicyclists but there is enough, most of the time, to get the ride in. After the Deer Creek gate and Silverton, there was a headwind today and the highway is a lot of up and downs and follows the river too in spots. Plenty of places to cool off if you were inclined to soak in the sun. At Granite Falls, I took Jordan Road and Arlington Heights Rd to get back to SR-530 and then west back to the car. I suggest another route option here (maybe Burn Road), since a lot of joy riders are racing their cars on this section of the route and the shoulder sucks except for some newly paved sections.

It was a wonderful day and an enjoyable ride. Bring plenty of food and water since there are no places between Darrington and Granite Falls! Enjoy the GPS track and pictures here.

Submitted by tomvale on 07/26/2020

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