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Rockport State Park— October 2000

By Brenda Senturia

Autumn is a good time to head into the mountains to sample Washington's fall colors. Rockport State Park (Rte. 20 near Newhalem) contains spectacular stands of old growth conifers, with an understory of Vine Maples which turn brilliant red in October and November. Many of the largest trees in the park are Douglas Fir, but there are also imposing Western Red-Cedars and Western Hemlocks. This park is also an excellent destination in winter, since the Nature Conservancy's preserve for wintering Bald Eagles is nearby. The trails describe below are all in excellent condition and most can be hiked in almost any season. Kiosks in the park show the trail network.

The Fern Creek trail offers a loop of about 1 mile. This easy trail wanders along a beautiful creek through Salmonberry and Thimbleberry. The mosses on the trees create an otherworldly atmosphere. Along the trail you'll find Enchanter's Nightshade. When the trail heads gently down, you'll see a fallen tree whose roots support a veritable 'root garden'. At least seven plant species can be seen on this forest 'sculpture'. The trailhead is found along the right side of the main road leading between the Tent and Trailer Campgrounds and ends at Campsite #18.

You will find the Evergreen trailhead by driving in to the Trailer Campground. This 2.6 mile loop (approximately 200 ft. elevation gain) finishes at the picnic area near the park entrance. The trail begins in a grove of Bigleaf Maples. Staying on the Evergreen Trail through 2 intersections, the route follows a small creek gradually upward, crossing back and forth. Skunk Cabbage and Devil's Club are sure signs of wet seeps. At the top, look for a Pacific Yew at the right side of the trail. In summer along this trail there are Bleeding Hearts, Bedstraw and Violet sp. The trail crosses another small creek and descends to a junction. Passing 'Broken Fir', a 314 year-old Douglas Fir stump, the trail descends, paralleling an area with obvious past logging. In summer, look for Indian Pipes as the trail swings back into old growth and eventually ends at the Picnic Area. Throughout the Park there is a lush understory of Sword Fern, Lady Fern with a variety of Saxifrages including Foamflower and Youth-on-age.

There are two short hikes just across Rte. 20 – the Sauk Spring Trail and the Skagit View Trail. The views of the Skagit are pretty much blocked by trees, but both trails are short (<1 mile) and a pleasant ramble. All of the trails mentioned above are suitable for family hikes and are well marked and maintained. There are bathroom facilities at the picnic area.

To reach the trailhead, go north on I-5 to Exit 232 (Cooke Rd.). Go east on Cook Rd. until the intersection with Rte. 20 (about 5.5 miles). Continue east on Rte. 20 for 30 miles to Rockport State Park (on the left). Driving time is about 2 hours. In autumn a very popular excursion is to visit Washington and/or Rainy Passes along Rte. 20 on Cascade Crest. At Rockport State Park you're well on the way, so why not?

Updated: July 3, 2016
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