The Boulder River trail on a fresh spring day offers all this and more.
Like the profusion of flowers, ferns, moss, and native shrubs lining the mostly level trail above the river. Delicate native maidenhair fern glow vivid lime green against a mossy rock face seeping water.
We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 9 a.m. on a brilliant Saturday morning to join the Alpine Trails Book Club, an inspired creation of Alpine Lily blogger Ashley. Fellow blogger Laura of Tiny Pines is the current organizer, and she picked an interesting read and a lovely hike.
I was surprised we found a parking space just one car away from the trailhead this "late," especially since this hike was recently featured in Sunset Magazine. But there we were, and off we went upriver.
Basically the trail meanders on an old logging road through a verdant temperate rainforest about 10 to 100 feet above the river, which courses through a narrow canyon. Lovely western red cedar and other native evergreens intersperse with alders, bigleaf maples, and more native shrubs.
At a few points along the way, steep side trails offer opportunities to scramble down to the river's edge. With a tweaky knee, I didn't go all the way down, although the others did.
But the real star of the show was the spectacular Feature Show waterfall about a mile up the trail across the river. Plunging well over 250 feet down to the river below, it widens into multiple streams farther down.
It was hard to get a decent shot of the whole thing with the bright sunlight. But I tried.
I hope you get an idea of how stunning this waterfall is, especially right now when the spring runoff is kicking into high gear.
After a couple hours hiking upriver, we stopped where the trail begins to meander away from the river's edge to snack and discuss the book. Laura and Andy said the trail is not as scenic beyond this point, about 3 miles or so from the trailhead.
Heading back downriver, we passed (and were passed by) increasing numbers of hikers. This is expected on a such a beautiful spring day not much more than an hour from Seattle. A few obstacles along the way were easily crossed, reminders that trees grow and die, fall over, and regenerate the forest floor.
By early afternoon we're headed back home, passing parked cars stretched about a quarter mile down from the trailhead.
As usual, I felt energized and refreshed from the hours walking through such beautiful place away from the city. To paraphrase my friend Jenifer, "I wish I could breath in this clean forest air every day." Because really, the air out there truly smells, tastes, and feels so clean and nourishing.
Like I said, nirvana.
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When You Go
It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to the trailhead from north Seattle. Bonus: No parking pass (Discovery or Northwest Forest) is required! From I-5 northbound, take the Arlington/Darrington exit 208, going right toward Arlington, then stay on Highway 530 through Arlington. At 23.6 miles from I-5, turn right onto French Creek Road, just after milepost 41. Follow the bumpy gravel road about 3 miles to the trailhead, which has parking for about 15 cars. While there is a vault toilet a mile in from the turnoff on French Creek Road, there are no facilities at the trailhead.