River Meadows Park─Wander along the Stillaguamish River

Marvel at impressive bluffs and wander onto inviting gravel bars at River Meadows Park.

Marvel at impressive bluffs and wander onto inviting gravel bars at River Meadows Park.

Quick Facts:

Location: South Fork Stillaguamish River, near Arlington

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Notes: Dogs must be leashed.

Access: From Exit 208 on I-5 head east on SR 530 to Arlington. One mile beyond junction with SR 9 (just after crossing the South Fork Stillaguamish River) turn right at light onto Arlington Heights Road. Proceed 1.0 mile turning right onto Jordan Road. Continue for 3.0 more miles to park entrance. Turn right and follow park road to large parking area near picnic and camping area by the river.

Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow-free winter hiking, camping


A rare blanket of light snow adds an extra layer of beauty to the river.

One of Snohomish County Parks’ loveliest properties, River Meadows Park offers delightful year round hiking and camping. With more than 6.0 miles of trails traversing woodlots and fallow fields, you can easily spend an entire day wandering through this 150-acre former homestead and farm. And you can easily spend the night here too—and in relative comfort thanks to the park’s new Yurt Village. Developed in 2009 in an old orchard on a terrace above the Great Meadow, head right out on the park’s charming trail system from one of six yurts. These sturdy structures will provide you with a warm and dry retreat before and after your hike.

Now, don’t let a brisk late fall or winter day keep you away from the trails. Winter is one of the best times to explore this park with low visitation. Often in summer the park’s fields are abuzz with children playing, while the park’s riverfront is lined with anglers and waders. The trails however rarely get crowded and in winter they offer plenty of quiet roaming.

For a good round trip hike through the park touching upon many of its attractions, try this 2.5 mile route beginning north along the river from the picnic-camping area. Occupying a large bend on the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River, the park offers over one mile of river frontage. And while it’s been decades since the surrounding meadows have been tilled or grazed, abundant evidence of the park’s agrarian past lie scattered throughout the property. These vestiges of simpler times add to the charm of this pastoral park.


Salmon are the focus of the annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River.

Under lofty cedars and cottonwoods the trail rounds the river bend near a big gravel bar. Marvel at the towering bluffs across the bend. Scan tree tops for eagles. Watch the swiftly moving river for mergansers riding the rapids and kingfishers darting the current.

Now through a belt of towering trees separating the river from the Great Meadow, continue following the wide trail coming to a junction. Left continues downstream to Jordan Creek. Head right to traverse the Great Meadow where side trails branch left to the Yurt Village and ranger station. Cross the park access road and follow an old road-turned trail through the park’s Upland Woods. Then descend a small bluff arriving in the Terrace Meadow back along the South Fork Stillaguamish.From here follow the river once again downstream. Beneath big cedars and along the pretty Funnel Meadow soon return to the day-use area.

Consider a return to the park in spring and plan on coming back in August too for the annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River.

For information on lodging and other attractions near River Meadows, visit www.snohomish.org.

For more great hikes in Snohomish County, pick up your free copy of  the 2015-16 Hiking in Snohomish County bookletpage-0

For more information on snow free hiking destinations in Western Washington, pick up a copy of my Winter Hikes of Western Washington Card DeckWinter Hikes Card Deck

La Center Bottoms─Wintering bird haven on the East Fork of the Lewis River

The La Center Bottoms is a vibrant wildlife viewing area

The La Center Bottoms is a vibrant wildlife viewing area

Quick Facts:

Location: La Center, Clark County Wash.

Land Agency: Vancouver-Clark County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 30 feet

Special Note: Dogs permitted on leash.

Access: From Vancouver, head north on I-5 to Exit 16. Turn right onto La Center Road and proceed for 1.6 miles to the bridge over the East Fork Lewis River. Immediately upon crossing bridge and entering town of La Center turn right on Aspen Ave, then immediately turn right again for trailhead parking near water reclamation plant.

Contact: Vancouver- Clark County Parks

Good to know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, bird watching, snow free winter hike

The La Center Bottoms is the crown jewel of the 1,000-acre-plus 10-mile long East Fork Lewis River Greenway. Here hikers of all ages and abilities (much of the site is wheelchair accessible) have the opportunity to explore a sprawling wetland saturated with wildlife—especially birds. A National Watchable Wildlife site, La Center Bottoms is a great place for observing birds year round. And during the winter months this is a great place for observing swans.


A beautiful and tranquil winter evening at the La Center Bottoms.

Start on a paved path swinging to the south of the city’s water treatment plant. Operated by Clark Public Utilities, the utility company along with the city of La Center, TDS Telecom, and private individuals were instrumental in the preservation of the 300-plus acre La Center Bottoms Stewardship Site. Next, the path skirts Sternwheeler Park, a gorgeous manicured city park with sculptures, picnic tables, historic displays and an outdoor amphitheatre. Connecting the city to the bottoms, feel free to roam Sternwheeler’s grounds, especially its stairways leading to nice views overlooking the bottoms.

Continue on the main path crossing Brezee Creek on a little bridge. From here the pavement ends and the way continues graveled. Come to a T-junction shortly afterwards. The path left climbs 70 feet or so up a wooded bluff to terminate at a school. Head right passing some majestic oaks before coming to a bird blind and great view of the sprawling wetland bottoms. On clear days Mount Hood can be seen rising in the horizon. In winter the area becomes a shallow lake harboring hundreds of geese and ducks and a few tundra swans thrown in for good measure! Eagles frequently survey the grounds from surrounding trees.

Walk past the blind and cross a channel on a sturdy bridge. The path continues southward with the bottoms to the east and the East Fork of the Lewis River to the west. At about .6 mile you’ll reach the end of gravel accessible trail. The way however continues for another half mile on a grassy path ending at a fence line on the preserve’s southern boundary.

For more information on La Center Bottoms (and 100 other area hikes) consult my guidebook: Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge Columbia River Gorge Cover

For Information on other family-friendly things to do in and around Clark County, Consult Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15

Boulder River─ walk among crashing waterfalls and through primeval forest

Spectacular waterfalls crash down the canyon walls surrounding Boulder River.

Spectacular waterfalls crash down the
canyon walls surrounding Boulder River.

Quick Facts

Location: Boulder River Wilderness, near Darrington

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Round trip: 8.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 750 feet

Green Trails Maps: Oso, WA- no. 77, Granite Falls, WA- no 109

Access: From Arlington follow SR 530 for 20 miles. Just beyond Milepost 41 near a subdivision turn right onto FR 2010 and continue for 3.7 miles to trailhead.

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest  

Notes: Wilderness rules apply

Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow free winter hike, exceptional waterfalls, exceptional old-growth

An excellent hike anytime of the year, Boulder River is a superb fall and winter destination. First, it’s one of the few wilderness hikes that you can do on the west side of the Cascades that pretty much stays snow free all winter long. Second, Boulder River’s rapids and cascades and the waterfalls that crash down off of steep slopes feeding it are stunning after winter rains. And finally, if it is raining, the thick ancient forest canopy over the trail will keep you well sheltered.

It’s a tossup as to what will leave you in more awe on this trail—the waterfalls or the old-growth forest. The moss-draped giant trees of the Boulder River Valley make up one of the last remaining low-country old-growth forests in Snohomish County. And growing among the Douglas-fir, western hemlock and 027western red cedar is a handful of Sitka spruce, a real rarity this far from the coast. These primeval trees are all protected within the 49,000-acre Boulder River Wilderness assuring that they’ll be around to marvel future generations of hikers.

From the trailhead, the Boulder River Trail travels 4.3 miles up a deep canyon. Numerous waterfalls tumble down the narrow canyon walls into the rushing river. The first one you will encounter lies about 1.5 miles down the trail. Here just beyond the wilderness boundary, stand in awe soaking up a spectacular unnamed twin waterfall crashing down into the river. There is more to come but this spot makes for a good turning around spot for young children.

For those of you intent on carrying on, continue up the trail traveling deeper into the moisture-laden emerald valley. After over four miles of pleasant hiking the trail ends at a campsite along the river. The way once crossed the river here and continued all the way to Tupso Pass and Three Fingers. Long abandoned, the forest has reclaimed it. Now retrace your steps back to the trailhead once again admiring the ancient giants and cascading waters that entranced you on the way in.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Boulder River visit www.snohomish.org.Snohomish-NEWBe sure to download your FREE Copy of the Brand New 2015-2016 Edition of Hiking in Snohomish County

page-0For more information on Boulder River and more than 100 other area hikes, pick up a copy of my

best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades.0486

Latourell Falls─First in a long line of stunning Gorge waterfalls

Latourell Falls plummets 250 feet into a basalt basin.

Latourell Falls plummets 250 feet
into a basalt basin.

Quick Facts

Location: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Land Agency: Oregon State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 540 feet

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge- West no. 428S

Contact: Guy Talbot State Park

Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Exit 28. Then follow the Historic Columbia Highway west 2.6 miles to trailhead.

Notes: Dogs must be leashed.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, historic, exceptional waterfalls

Closest Columbia River Gorge waterfalls to Portland, Latourell is not the most popular thanks to nearby Multnomah Falls siphoning away thousands of sightseers. But this pair of falls is never-the-less one of the prettiest in the entire gorge rivaling Oregon’s most famous cascading attraction. One of the first areas to be protected in what would eventually become the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area;  the family of Guy Webster Talbot donated the land surrounding this pair of waterfalls back in 1929. Located just outside of the tiny town of Latourell with a population hovering in the teens— you’ll feel much farther in both time and distance from bustling Portland.


The lower falls plunge into a basin of columnar basalt.

The hike makes a delightful loop though an emerald ravine to a pair of impressive falls roaring over steep basalt cliffs. The lower falls—immediately viewed from the trailhead, plunges nearly 250 feet making it a remarkable sight and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. After viewing it, continue to the upper falls by taking a good trail that climbs above and behind the lower falls first.

Once above the lower falls, the trail brushes along Latourell Creek through small groves of big firs and moss-draped big leaf maples. Cross over numerous side creeks and amble through attractive cedar groves too along the way. Just shy of one mile, come to a spray-blasted bridge beneath the 120-foot horsetail-like upper falls. You may want to savor the mist in warm weather, and make a hasty retreat in chilly autumn!

The trail then continues along Latourell Creek’s west bank traversing steep slopes. After passing a vista of the lower falls, the trail descends reaching the Historic Columbia River Highway. Carefully cross it continuing now on a paved path through picnic grounds; and then beneath one of the last remaining concrete arched bridges on the historic highway. Arrive at the base of the Lower Falls, one of the most glorious places in the Gorge. Stare at streams of silver water plummeting over an amphitheatre of columnar basalt. Return to the trailhead when content.

For more information on this hike and 99 others within the region in both Oregon and Washington, check out my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).Columbia River Gorge Cover

For great family friendly information on where to stay and play in the Portland reas, check out Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Lake Twentytwo─waterfalls, big cedars and a beautiful lake beneath Mount Pilchuck


Lake Twentytwo on a tranquil autumn day.

Quick Facts

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 5.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,350 feet

Green Trails Map: Granite Falls WA-No. 109, Silverton WA-No. 110

Notes: NW Forest Pass required; dogs permitted on leash; trail can get busy, practice Leave No Trace ethics and consider visiting on a weekday.

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 11 miles to the Verlot Visitors Center. Proceed for two more miles to the trailhead located on your right.

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly; exceptional old-growth, waterfalls

Cradled in a rugged cirque at the base of Mount Pilchuck’s sheer northern face, Lake Twentytwo is a stunning sight. A popular destination close to population centers, this hike offers plenty of delights in addition to the sparkling alpine lake. The well-built trail traverses one of the most impressive stands of primeval forest in the region. And ambling beside Twentytwo Creek for a short ways, there are handful of cascades and waterfalls to be mesmerized by as well.


A hiker enjoys a quiet moment at Lake Twentytwo.

The trail immediately enters a Research Natural Area (RSA) of nearly 800 acres that was set aside in 1947. The purpose was to allow for the study of the effects on water, wildlife, and timber in an area left in its virgin state compared to a similar area that has been intensively managed. You’ll immediately see the effects of water, as this area is lush. Water appears to seep and bubble from the ground just about everywhere along this trail. Moss blankets boulders and rotting logs. Maidenhair, deer, and lady’s ferns form showy bouquets beneath behemoth trees. Western hemlock and silver fir are the predominant species in this tract, but it’s the western red cedars that will gain most of your attention. Some of these trees are gargantuan, measuring almost 12 feet in diameter.

Start by following the trail up a side hill paralleling the road and the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. In a half mile, cross Twentytwo Creek on a little bridge by a pretty series of cascades. Then begin to climb. It’s a steady ascent, but not too step. After about 2.0 miles you’ll cross a talus slope punctuated with maples. Pretty in fall, the views across the South Fork Stilly Valley to Green Mountain in the early summer aren’t too bad either. Reenter an impressive stand of ancient conifers and climb once more. After gaining a few hundred feet, the way meets back up with Twentytwo Creek to enter the impressive and rocky cirque housing Lake Twentytwo.

Snow lingers in the basin well into summer. Beneath Pilchuck’s impressive vertical walls of rock, the lake’s setting is stunning. Waterfalls crash down the sheer cliffs. In early season, so do avalanches so stay well away. By mid-summer however, it’s safe to circumnavigate the lake on a delightful 1.2 mile trail. Otherwise, just find a nice spot by the outlet to plop down and savor the beauty of this mountain lake.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Lake Twentytwo visit www.snohomish.org.


For more detailed information on this hike and over 100 other nearby hikes, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook.0486