Escape the City (Seattle Edition): Old Robe Canyon
(image: Instagram @wa_wanderer)
I don’t think I could ever convince anyone that I’m a mountain woman—a badass with Michelle Obama rock-climbing arms, who spends her work-week dreaming of the next brutal hike she can take, and throws the word “carabiner” into casual conversation. I’m not any of those things. But I do enjoy a quick city escape when the symphony of car mufflers and emergency vehicles has back-to-back performances all week long. Since city riffraff is year-round, it’s good to pick escapes that can also give you a much needed sonic hug. For me, that’s hiking Old Robe Canyon.
You might be thinking, “Girl, you just said you’re not a mountain woman, what are you thinking going out into nature like that?” To which, I’d reply, “Thanks for listening and looking out for me, fam.” But Old Robe is truly one of my favorite places in the world. Here’s why.
It’s a majestic AF trek that won’t wreck your body.
The thing about beautiful mountain hikes is that you see a picture of them on the internet, get inspired to commit to climbing the mountain, and then your burning thighs remind you that your uphill battle to “escape” from city life has now transformed into a literal uphill battle. Sometimes you just want a rejuvenating hike with hella views (that’s a mood). Old Robe is a canyon. You hike down a series of easy-going switchbacks (a note for those who are worried about coming back up) 300 feet toward the Stillaguamish River. And as you progress toward the river, you are surrounded by maples, cottonwoods, and ferns blanketing the ground beneath your feet. You hear the river water roaring as you get closer, until the trail is parallel to the water and you’ve emerged in front of a monochromatic rocky backdrop that reveals water running and trickling through canyon walls.
Pop a squat. Have a picnic.
If you’re seriously looking to chill on this getaway, it’s flat enough on the majority of this terrain that there are many opportunities to find a spot on the rocks near the water, or a tree trunk or on the ground to lay out a blanket and a sophisticated food spread. I personally think that if you’re committing to a picnic getaway, you should invest in some artisanal cheeses, prosciutto, and fancy fig spread. Do it for the ‘gram.
The hike tells a story.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say that there are different phases of scenery during this 2.4-mile (or more depending on your rebel spirit, but more on that later) stretch. And the farther out you go, the more history of the area unfolds in front of you. Picture yourself living your best life in a hard hat with a light on top. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Go ahead, be a rebel.
I’m not saying to do this, but I’m telling you I’ve done it and it was worth it. You will get to warning signs that tell you not to go any farther because of landslides and washouts that make the area “unsafe.”
But every time I’ve gone here, I’ve seen hikers returning from the scary dangerous blocked-off portion and they looked happier than ever, talking about tunnels and waterfalls and a bridge…
I had to be one of those wide-eyed hikers, too. So I marched proudly past the warning signs and very carefully continued on the trail. Loose gravel and rockier terrain are the only challenges you’ll encounter. Otherwise, you get to continue the journey through a Bob Ross painting before deciding when you’d like to turn back. (This will, of course, depend on the season and trail conditions. Use your best judgment.) So if you’re looking to hit the peaceful pause button on life, Old Robe is the spot for you. Turns out, I might just be a canyon woman.
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