Skagit Bluffs Trail
Length: 5.6 km one way
Elevation Change: 225 m
Time: 2 hours
Best Time to Go: June to October (red rhododendrons bloom mid-June)
Start of Trail: Cascade Recreation Area parking lot (12 km east of the west portal to the park or Cayuse Flats parking lot (17 km east of the west portal or 25 km west of the Visitor Centre).
The Skagit Bluffs Trail parallels the Hope-Princeton Highway between the Cascade Recreation Area parking lot and Cayuse Flats parking lot. As the trail rises above the road the hiker is rewarded with occasional good views. Little traffic noise is heard as the trail climbs and heads deeper into the forest on a trail that is often softly padded with needles from the trees towering overhead.
For a good stretch of this trail you will actually be hiking along the old Dewdney Trail which is part of, or parallel to, todays Hope Princeton Highway. The Dewdney is a heritage trail that was constructed in 1860 by Edgar Dewdney on the request of Governor Douglas. This trail was originally called “Mule Road to the Similkameen” and later known as the “Canyon Trail”.
Cascade Recreation Area parking lot start: The trail commences within 50 m of the entrance to the parking lot. You will need to drive into the parking area and backtrack along the driveway to the posted trail head. The elevation gain begins almost immediately. For the first 10 minutes the trail skirts along and gradually rises above the highway. You will soon begin to notice an abundance of red rhododendrons. These shrubs put on a spectacular display around mid-June. The trail levels out for about 100 m and then starts to climb. A further 15 minutes of uphill will bring you to a rock slide area. This scree area continues for a few hundred metres. After this the trail descends for a brief minute break and then starts a brief and easy uphill climb (30-35 minutes from the trail head).
Continuing along, the trail starts to descent and reaches the first creek crossing which is dry in summer and even into early September. The next creek is reached about 2 minutes later and generally has plenty of water. A further 200m brings you to the 3rd creek crossing, which while not as full, will probably have water in the summer and early fall providing the summer has not been too hot and dry. You then begin a slight ascent which gradually becomes more strenuous but only for a short time and then begins to descend to a fairly strong large creek which is a good supply of water (about 45-50 minutes along the trail). This creek is not bridged so caution must be used in crossing it. At this point the trail is rolling along up and down, and then ascends for a short distance (1 minute) and for the next 10-15 minutes you can enjoy a more or less downhill journey.
About 1 hour into the trail you will notice it widens. You are now hiking along the historic Dewdney Trail section which is part of the Skagit Bluffs Trail. Within 5 minutes you will reach a viewpoint which is a good spot to take a break or stop for lunch. A further 5 minutes along the trail will bring you to a second viewpoint, much like the first. In the autumn this trail provides a wonderful blend of colours from golds and greens to orange and crimson with vine maple scattered along most of it.
After leaving the second viewpoint the trail gradually descends for about 12-15 minutes. Here you reach the 4th creek (1 m across) and it also should have plenty of water throughout the summer. There is no bridge here so step across carefully. A bit further along the trail, on the south side, is an old cabin. You will have to look closely to see it as there are only the bottom walls remaining. Part of the floor is visible but rotting away. This cabin was built in the 1930s by Ole Johansen and some other miners. This cabin along with other cabins which no longer exist and a horse barn were built for those who were involved with claims and mining in the Can Am vicinity.
Continuing along, (95-100 minutes from the trail head) the trail ascends briefly and the 5th creek is reached within a few minutes. It is a large, dry creek bed in summer but full in the spring. There is no difficulty crossing it later in the season. A section of creek and mud (2 m across) is reached about 6-7 minutes later. This is a naturally damp area and can be expected to be moist, wet or muddy year-round. You will notice different plant life along this portion of the trail which is due to the more damp nature of the geography and presents a good opportunity to look at mosses, ferns and lichen. A second small creek/mud stretch is broached 50 m further. From here the trail rolls up and down gently to end on the north side of the highway across from the Cayuse Flats parking are (1 3/4 – 2 hours from the trail head). The parking area is on the south side of the highway.