Hike of the week: OLD SAUK RIVER TRAIL NO. 728

Hike description: Another great lowland hike for families and anyone looking for a breath of fresh winter air on a trail with little elevation gain. There are two trailheads. This trail description has you starting at the northern trailhead and hiking upstream, and uphill, on the way in. On the way out you’ll be following the river on its journey to the ocean.

Located close to the river, over the years the trail has had to change course (compliments of volunteer work crews) in response to the vagaries of the river itself. The floods of November and December 2006 brought the Sauk up and out of its “normal” flow pattern. As you hike be mindful of how powerful flowing water is – and of how determined trail crews are to keep these wonderful areas accessible.

The trail starts in lush forest with some old-growth Douglas fir. Like so many forest walks in Washington, parts of this trail are reminiscent of the lush rain forests in the wet coastal areas of the state. At 3/4 of a mile the meandering trail brings you back to the river. At 11/4 miles you’ll cross a creek on a bridge built by volunteers. In another 1/4 mile the trail has been rebuilt around a washout and veers away from the main channel of the river, then crosses an old road and rejoins the river bank. At 23/4 miles the trail turns away from the river and toward the road and the southern trailhead. As you head back the way you came, pause to enjoy the serenity and perhaps see some waterfowl and other wildlife. During summer and fall you might see salmon and steelhead fighting their way upriver to spawn.

Directions: From the Darrington Ranger Station, take the Mountain Loop Highway 4.0 miles south. The northern trailhead is on the left. The southern trailhead is 2.8 miles farther east on the highway.

Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round-trip: 6

Elevation: 200 feet

Best time of year: Year-round

Map: Green Trails 110 Silverton

Pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Also: Always be prepared for the extremes of weather. Rain gear and a pad to sit on at lunch will keep you dry and cozy. When hiking in the wilderness you should always remember two things: Carry the 10 essentials and leave no trace. The 10 essentials, your “Possibilities Kit,” is so that you’ll be prepared for an unplanned event. Always pack out everything you take in.

Info: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs; Verlot Public Service Center, 360-691-7791; Darrington Ranger District 360-436-1155; “Day Hiking North Cascades,” Mountaineers Books.

Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.thenewstribune.com/hiking.