The cabins are located in a rural area of the western foothills of the Cascade Mountain range of Washington state. The area is not “touristy”, yet attracts thousands of visitors due to the scenic and outdoor recreational attractions. Whispering Waters and Sky Beach Cabin are vacation rental cabins in Baring, Washington close to Highway 2, a National Scenic Byway winding through the beautifully rugged Cascade Mountains with numerous waterfalls and crystal clear rivers along the way. In addition to the abundance of conifer trees there are many native evergreen plants that keep Western Washington green year round. The air is fragrant with the smell of cedar and fir.
US hwy 2 is part of the southern limb of 440 mile scenic Cascade Loop Highway, and the south fork Skykomish is a Washington State Scenic River. Partly because of the protections provided by these desinations and partly because of the ruggedness of the land, development has been limited which makes it a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains. The Baring/ Index/ Skykomish area is about half-way between Seattle and Leavenworth, so can be a base from which to visit other areas.
Magnificent 6,000 ft Mt. Baring towers over the unincorporated town of Baring with approximately 300 full-time residents and many part-time second homes/cabins. Like most of the towns in the Sky valley, Baring began as a logging and mining town in the early 1900’s along the Great Northern rail line. There aren’t any operational mines now, nor much logging; but the trains still rumble through and logging trucks are a common sight on US highway 2.
The cabins are on the “outskirts” of the town in semi-private locations. Even though there are other cabins around, they are not part of a planned community, and trees and other features provide privacy. Sky Beach Cabin is accessed via a picturesque historic one-lane wooden suspension bridge. The bridge is regularly maintained by the county bridge crew and is safe. The roads to the cabins are plowed in the winter and usually there is no need for 4WD, except occasionally in winter.
It is a 90 minutes (if you avoid rush hour traffic) to Seattle for sightseeing. Leavenworth, a Bavarian theme town with unique shops and good restaurants in a beautiful mountain setting is 60 minutes in the other direction on the east side of the Cascades.
Groceries: The closest grocery store is in Gold Bar, 13 miles (15 minutes) west of Baring, on the way to the cabins when coming from the west. The Baring Store sells staples such as milk and bread. There is a deli and small convenience store in Skykomish 9 miles east. When coming to the cabins from the west Monroe has the best selection of stores-Fred Meyer, WalMart, Safeway, and Grocery Outlet on Hwy 2. Tiendas and bakery on Main Street, two blocks south of Hwy 2. If coming from the east, Safeway in Leavenworth is the closest grocery store.
Restaurants: The Baring Store serves breakfast and simple lunches. In Skykomish (9 miles east) the Skykomish Deli has great sandwiches, and Cascadia Inn’s restaurant is open daily with varying hours. There are four restaurant in Gold Bar – diner with great desserts, Mexican, Vietnamese, pizza, and steak house.
Local Activities: This area is known for its abundance of outdoor recreational activities during all seasons. The cabins are located on privately owned land within Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Hiking is fantastic in this beautiful area, with a wide variety of close by hiking trails – easy family walks through the
woods to strenuous climbs for the more athletic. You can walk to waterfalls, trout lakes with crystal clear water, alpine meadows, historic lookout towers, old growth forests, and to spectacular mountain top viewpoints. The normal snow-free hiking season is about June through October. During the winter there are some low elevation trails usually accessible and there is a list of these in the area information book available for your use while staying at the cabins. Hikes to higher elevations (4000ft & above) are usually snow-free in July, but most of the trails will be hiked long before then by eager hikers who pack the snow down. All trailheads can be reached by 2WD vehicles once the roads are snow free. A parking pass is required at most forest service trail heads and can be purchased at many local stores (daily $5, annual $30) and at the ranger station in Skykomish. Many of the Area Photos were taken on hikes. More hiking photos on Flickr. Washington Trails Association is a good resource. When it is raining on the west side of the mountains, going to the east side is often a dry alternative. The cabins’ owners are hikers and can give advice on hikes.
For rock climbers there is the 500 ft Index Town Wall, featuring some of the most technical rock climbing in the state. For those who don’t climb, it is interesting to watch the climbers, and then you can hike a steep trail to the top of the wall that offers a fantastic view of Index and the north fork Skykomish River.
Rafting/kayaking: As you drive along Hwy 2 between Gold Bar and Index you may see rafters and kyakers in the Skykomish River. Around MP 33 is Boulder Drop, class IV rapids, and it’s fun to watch the boats slide between the huge boulders. Spring and early summer are best for rafting, as the water level is usually too low by mid to late July, depending upon snow pack and current rainfall. There are also gentle family floats on parts of the Skykomish River. Bring your own equipment or sign up for a trip with one of the local rafting companies: Alpine Adventures 1-800-RAFT FUN 1-800-723-8386, Chinook Expeditions 1-800-241-3451, and Outdoor Adventures 425-883-9039 .
If you bring your own raft or kayaks, you can put in at the Skykomish ball park east of town, or under the bridge in Skykomish for a 8-9 mile float. For a 4 mile float, put in at Money Creek campground.
WARNING: There are 3 sets of dangerous falls – Eagle, Canyon and Sunset Falls – 3, 5 & 7 miles downstream of Baring. These are not in the immediate vicinity of the cabins but ask for locations before floating downstream on the south fork.
Skyland Ranch in Gold Bar provides 1-2 hr guided Horseback riding trips along the Skykomish River. 360-793-2611 for reservations. A little further west, Stillwater Ranch in Sultan also has trail horses – 425-329-7270.
Local Railroad History: For railroad buffs, the 7.8 mile Cascade Tunnel can be viewed on the way to Stevens Pass, and wheelchair accessible Iron Goat Trail retraces the path of the original railroad grade, avalanche sheds and the original 3-mile Cascade Tunnel at the historical train wreck site of Wellington.
The town of Skykomish has free miniature train rides summer weekends.
There is an interesting history of turn-of-the century mining endeavors in this area, and the location of some of the mine sites can be visited. Ask Janet for more information, if interested.
Sking/Snow Activities: Stevens Pass Ski Mountain is 23 miles east of Baring, 25-30 minutes if road and traffic conditions are good. AWD, 4WD or chains are required at times and good traction tires are always recommended. Miller River Road, half-way between Baring & Skykomish, is a good cross country skiing and snowshoeing destination when the snow level is 2,000ft or below. Snowshoes and cross country skis can be rented at the Nordic Center (Thurs-Sun) east of the pass. The closest snowmobile area is Foss River Road east of Skykomish – no rentals available. Unfortunately, there aren’t any good close by sledding areas.
Fishing: The fishing season is June 1-Nov. 30 for most game fish; but due to the falls (Sunset, Canyon and Eagle) there is limited fishing until the fish elevator goes into operation, usually late July through October, bringing up native steelhead and spawning salmon for catch & release. Bait and barbs are not allowed, and native steelhead and salmon must be released. NOTE: 2016 fishing season ends August 31 http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01818/2016-17_puget_sound_coast.pdf (pg 40). The fishing season west of Sunset Falls extends until Feb. 28, so a scenic 10 minute drive will get you into more lucrative fishing waters. There is rainbow, cutthroat and bull trout in the river system, and the best fishing is usually mid-July through October after the spring snow melt and the water level is lower. Most of the river can be waded except after heavy rain or during snow melt that sometimes lasts into early summer. You can fish downstream of Sunset Falls (6 miles west) anytime during the season (usually June 1-Feb 28). Lake fishing opens the last Saturday of April. Most of the alpine lakes in this area require hiking, except Lake Elizabeth and Evans which are accessible once the roads are snow free, usually June or July. A WA fishing license is required and there are frequent rule changes. Contact WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/ for more information and license purchase. Fishing licenses can also be purchased at Fred Meyer in Monroe, and Sultan Chamber of Commerce 320 Main Street one block north of Hwy 2. Drift boat fishing guide Scotty Landis 206-295-3221.
Biking: Stevens Pass bike park with bike rentals. Forest service and abandoned logging roads make great mountain biking roads if you have your own bike.
Scenic Mountain Chair Lift Rides: Stevens Pass Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10am-5:30pm July, August & September
Disc Golf: Stevens Pass, Friday-Sunday 10am-6pm, late June to early October
Reiter Foothills between Index and Gold Bar is open daily for off road vehicles.
Woodinville Wine Country: If you haven’t had Washington State wines, this is a great opportunity to do so. Woodinville 35 miles (45 minutes)southwest is about half way to Seattle with the original winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, as well as over 100 tasting rooms for in three separate districts. One of the first micro breweries, Redhook Brewery & Pub, is in the same area as the wineries. Chateau St Michelle also offers a good outdoor summer concert series, as well as unadvertised free music the second Tuesday of every summer month.
Boeing Everett Tour: During the tour of the world’s largest building by volume (472,000,000 cubic feet or 13,385,378 cubic meters), visitors will see airplanes being built. (Sometimes you will see airplane bodies being transported through Baring on the trains.)
Relaxing: Even with all these activities to participate in, some say the best thing about the area is the serenity. It’s very relaxing to just sit and watch the river flow by and chairs are strategically placed for this purpose. During the summer chairs are on the beach at Sky Beach Cabin and Whispering Waters so you can sit with your feet in the river if you like.
Weather: At 775ft elevation Baring has limited snowfall; but snow is not unusual. If the forecast calls for a snow level of 1000 ft or below, it will probably be snowing at the cabins. The average daytime temperature in winter is usually low-30’s to mid-40’s with the temperature dropping at night to mid-low 30’s. Snow removal on Hwy 2 is usually excellent. Stevens Pass, 23 miles east of the cabin, is occasionally closed for avalanche control and sometimes chains are required, so please come prepared for winter driving conditions, especially if you’re planning to ski or drive to Leavenworth. Call 800-695-7623 for the pass road report.
Spring conditions often start in late February and continue usually through June with gradually warming, but still cool temperatures and frequent rainy days. April and May are the best months for wild spring flowers at this elevation, but you will see spring flowers as late as July at the higher elevation due to later snow melt. The river is usually highest in May-June when the mountain snow is melting.
Summer temps are usually very pleasant, with day temps in the 70’s to low 80’s, occasionally high 80’s-low 90’s (or 60’s on cloudy or rainy days). Anything over 80 degrees is considered insufferable by the locals, and that’s when we grab our chairs and tubes and head for the 50 degree waters of the river to cool off. As soon as the sun sets the temperature drops to mid 50’s at night which is great for cooling off the cabins (natural air conditioning). There is often a burn ban from late July until fall due to dry conditions and high fire danger. The rain that western Washington is famous for usually continues intermittently through June, with July and August the driest months of the year and only occasional rain.
Fall colors begin late August with the vine maples turning bright red at the lower elevations. The best fall colors are usually the entire month of October with a succession of trees turning. The gold leaves of the big leaf maples are spectacular against the backdrop of the rugged Cascade Mountains. A drive to Stevens Pass is a must to see the vivid red huckleberry bushes.
September and October are transitional months, weather wise, ranging from sunny and warm (60’s- low 70’s) to rainy and cool (50’s). The heavier rains and snow accumulation on the mountain tops usually start early November.