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The Stilly

The Stillaguamish River, near Mount Pilchuck in northern Washington, is my soul river. She’s heard my songs and felt my laughter, swallowed my tears and carried away my prayers. She has cleansed me and buoyed me, made me giggle and brought me serenity. I love this river — the Stilly. 

I’ve been visiting the South Fork of the Stillaguamish regularly for around 20 years now. I’ve camped with small groups, and large, on her banks. I’ve done personal ceremony and group ceremony there. Our elementary school wilderness camp was even on the South Stilly. When I bring people to her for the first time, they talk about how beautiful she is. Oh, sure, these people have seen other rivers, but there is something about the Stilly.

What can you do there? Well, you can just be with the river. That’s always good. Meditate, sing, wade, swim, or just sit on the shore. How about a picnic lunch? The US Forest Service website lists all the day use sites. Just scroll down to the Mountain Loop Scenic Byway section for details. Fishing,climbing, and cycling, including two trails for mountain biking, are also popular.

Hiking trails are all around the area, including the Big Four Ice has a great list of the main hikes. The Verlot trails are the south fork and the Darrington trails are the north fork. You can also check AllTrails or The Washington Trails Association (WTA) as well as the Verlot Ranger Station.

There’s plenty of camping space along the South Stilly too — for individuals or groups. The US Forest Service site will show you all the available public or group campgrounds, rental cabins (some are old Forest Service lookouts). It also has a section on dispersed camping (camp where you want within reason/rules.) Links on their list will get you to the reservation pages at You can search on as well, but I prefer the information provided by the USFS.

If nothing else, go drive “The Loop” (the Mountain Loop Scenic Byway). They block the road higher up on both sides once the snow starts accumulating, so late spring, summer and early autumn are good times to do the entire Loop. That said, the beauty of the snow on the trees and landscaping is wonderful to see and the winter sports options include snowmobiling at the sno-park, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

I can’t say enough good things about the Stilly and the surrounding land. Take a mental health day or week and experience it for yourself. Please treat her and the land well. Leave no trace — visible or invisible. Use natural and biodegradable soaps, shampoos and toothpastes sparingly, pack out your trash (and any others may have left behind), stay on the trails to protect the flora and fauna, and keep your campfires low and controlled. Be good to our waters and our lands so they will be around for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

(For more of the science and ecology of the Stillaguamish, visit USFS Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians Natural Resources.)

Thanks for joining us as we live our journey…and remember to live yours too!


Written by Julie Gant

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    • Thank you! Yes, the Stilly/Stillaguamish is not one of Washington’s more famous rivers. Fair warning, though, it’s popular in the local area and campgrounds are often sold out for spring and summer weekends and holidays as early as January/February – especially the group sites. Dispersed camping and hiking are definitely better during the week rather than the weekends.

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