I took the kids hiking at the Icicle Gorge Trail yesterday. The weather report had been worsening all week, and I really wanted somewhere dry, not drippy. So I scrapped plans to go to Longmire and headed east instead. I think I made a good decision – the flowers are amazing right now along the Icicle River!
The hike is mostly flat, with only a few sections of ups and downs. It’s four miles long, with about 150 feet of elevation gain throughout. There are options to extend the distance you hike if you’re up for that (the Icicle View Trail branches off from this one).
We started at the main trailhead, which has room for many cars, as well as an outhouse and picnic table. We ate a quick lunch, then headed downstream to take the trail clockwise. I’m glad we did it this way.
I’ll be completely honest here, I was not the happiest mom for this hike. Gabe has recently acquired a hand-me-down iPhone (not for phone use yet, though that will come soon enough…) and has been loving the camera and all the fun photo apps and programs. He has enjoyed experimenting and takes his photography very seriously.
But he takes so many photos and tries to get them all perfect, and that means we go even more slowly than we normally do. I was getting very impatient when we had barely gone a mile and it had taken us over an hour, and the afternoon was wearing on. I could have responded better, and my attitude didn’t help the atmosphere of the hike. Sigh. It’s hard to be a mom of a sensitive, artistic, perfectionistic, intense kiddo. And even The Hiker Mama and Kids don’t have idyllic hikes all the time, despite the happy face we put on.
Anyway, I apologized a few times, but we had to come to an agreement about making sure I was respecting his creative process, while he still respected our need to get back to the car before dark. I don’t know if we found the answer, but needless to say, this trip dragged on way longer than I expected. BUT, the flowers and scenery were amazing. I wish my own photos did them justice.
The kids said their favorite parts were the tiger lilies, lupines and paintbrushes, as well as the beautiful river and scenic mountains all around. We found some nice places to sit and snack along the trail.
There are opportunities to get down to the water to filter some if you need it, but not really any safe places to play at this time of year. I don’t know if the water calms down later in the summer or fall, but right now it’s rushing and roaring.
The trail crosses over the river on the lower end on an aesthetically pleasing bridge over a narrow slot, the water turbulent and loud below. We marveled at the interesting rocks that were exposed at this section; budding geologists will enjoy the twisted layers of ancient rock.
We found some unusual plants along the path, such as white shooting stars (Dodecatheon dentatum), Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana), and the profusion of tiger lilies (Lilium columbianum).
I’ve never seen so many of these delicate orange delights before! Spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza striata), Alaska rein orchid (Piperia unalascensis), and various penstemons made us smile. There were many more flowers and interesting plants that I won’t list here.
We also enjoyed the tanagers flitting and calling, and the Swainson’s thrushes serenading us all afternoon. Squirrels and chipmunks skittered up and down trees and through the underbrush. It was lovely.
The upper end of the trail goes through Rock Island Campground (there are outhouses you can use, and fresh water to fill your bottles if needed, as well as a day use area with picnic tables.) Then you head back down the river, taking in views of the gorge, walking through thick cedar forests, and returning to your car at the parking lot. (There is an excellent description of the trail and other features over on the WTA website.)
It took us longer to drive here than I thought it would – 3 hours from north of Seattle. The campsites along the Icicle looked so tempting, and I wished we had brought camping gear instead of having to drive back home. At least I had brought my little stove, and we heated up some cans of soup for a quick hot meal before heading back over the pass. And we even managed to avoid the rain, despite some threatening gray clouds over head. There were a lot of mosquitoes, so if you’re sensitive, bring the bug spray.
I highly recommend this trail if you are camping in the area or staying in Leavenworth. It was delightful.