Entiat River Valley: North Fork Campground & Trail, Silver Falls
The summer has been a busy one - with too much work and not enough play. We were both itching to get outside. Sort of as a continuance of revisiting places we haven't been in a long time (10 years), we decided on the Entiat River Valley. From what we could recall of our last visit, we stayed at the Silver Falls campground and did some hiking in the area including the Silver Falls hike. This time we chose to camp at North Fork campground - only a couple of miles past Silver Falls, but much smaller and less used.
We picked a site next to the river, but was very open to the main road. Thankfully there wasn't much traffic on the road, so it didn't bother us too much. Plus we got a great view of the small river babbling over the rocks below, the alpine trees on the mountains above us, and the infinite blue sky above.
Migration was in swing in the valley. Easily 60 or more Vaux Swift chattered and flitted above the treetops. A pair of silent Western Woodpewees sallied low over the river and perched on the limb of a fallen log. Olive-sided Flycatchers also sallied from a dead tree and chose to stay at the tops of the tree. The more resident Gray Jays and an American Dipper made an appearance at the campground as well. Except for these tiny biting insects, the cool clear evening was pleasant and comforting.
Only 4 miles from the campground was the North Fork Trailhead - one of the few in the area that doesn't allow motorized vehicles on the trails. We decided to do a somewhat ambitious hike starting at the trailhead, following Pyramid Creek up and around to Pugh Ridge. From there we could loop back down the North Fork trailhead. It would be a 14 mile day hike with an elevation gain of ~ 2750 ft. That is somewhat long considering how much we tend to stop to enjoy everything we see on the trail as well.
We set out somewhat early in the morning to tackle our loop that lay ahead. The North Fork trails do allow pack animals and horse, so the trails were very soft and dusty, especially on the steeper parts of the trail. It was somewhat unpleasant to hike on as a result, especially if you were following behind someone and having to deal with all the fine dust that clouded the air. However, I can only imagine that the trails with motorized vehicles would be a lot worse in making the trails softer and wider. At least the North Fork trails were narrow and the horse mainly kept to one path.
Getting back to our hike, we set out on the North Fork trail winding through the forest of tall narrow pines with blueberry bushes, wintergreen, and rattlesnake plantains covering the forest floor. We reached Pyramid Creek and crossed on the foot bridges. After crossing the creek, we turned up the Pyramid Creek trail and began our ascent following the creek.
A chattering of bird activity lead us to find a family of Black-backed Woodpeckers. We sat and watched them flake off the bark of the beetle-killed spruce trees. They continued to squeak and rattle while they worked at the bark. Mountain chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Cassin's Vireo added to the bird activity surrounding the woodpeckers.
The trail continued to climb through the spruce and larch and crossed the creek a several times. The water level was low enough to rock hop our way across without getting wet. Near the creeks, small bogs held a variety of flowers including asters, monkey flowers, monkshood, and columbine. Farther up the trail, grassy meadows broke up the forests and eventually expanses of meadows dominated the landscape. The wildflowers were still in bloom at the higher elevation. Although I think 2 or 3 weeks ago the colors would have been spectacular. By now the lupines had faded and many of the orchids had past. Still the monkshood, gentian, and paintbrush put on a good late season show. Butterflies flitted around the meadows seemingly unsure of which flower to indulge in first.
After eating lunch in a flower rich meadow surrounded by the rocky bare mountains above (and after feeding a few mosquitoes their lunch), we climbed up to Pugh Ridge. It was a steeper climb than the rest of the trail, but thankfully it was pretty short. We met another couple coming down the ridge - they turned out to be the only other people we saw during the entire hike.
Up on the ridge, the trail petered out in a few places and was a bit hard to follow. Cairn marked some parts of the trail and helped guide us. From the ridge, we got spectacular views of the mountains and forested valleys surrounding us. Pyramid Mountain was the closest. On the ridge, a juvenile Northern Goshawk circled above us until is sailed down the mountain and out of sight.
The decent down the other side of Pugh Ridge was not very exciting. There are two sets of switchbacks and even as we were going down, I couldn't imagine being thrilled about going up. The higher switchbacks weaved through a forest of lichen-covered trees and absolutely no ground cover. Perhaps is was lack of rain or the forest being denser, but there wasn't much to look at except trees and lichen. The switchbacks closer to the North Fork trail were slightly better with more ground cover, but let's face it, when you're huffing and puffing your way up a mountain it takes a lot to keep you entertained when you're essentially walking back and forth. Going up Pyramid Creek was definitely the better way to go. So much so that if it weren't the longer route or if we had more time, Pyramid Creek would be the better way to go back down.
We made it back to the car, worn out but at least able to get back to camp with still some sunlight. And we were able to enjoy another star-filled night in the forest.
Before headed back home, we stopped at Silver Falls and hiked the short trail. It had been a while so it was good to take another look. Despite our sore legs, we hiked the loop and enjoyed the viewpoints of the rushing creek and the waterfall. Black Swifts chittered near the falls and we saw a few swoop into the water. It made me wonder if they were just playing or if they were nesting. We only saw them once go into the spray, so it made me think they weren't sticking around.
Our visit back to the Entiat Valley was short, but incredible rich with new sights and beauty. We hope to return again, perhaps next time to backpack up the Pyramid Creek trail, camp in the meadows, and be prepared with DEET.
North Fork Campground
Northwest Forest Pass or National Parks Pass or fee payable at kiosk needed to park at North Fork Trailhead