Hike of the Week for Friday, January 7, 2011
Winter wandering and warm camping along the Stillaguamish River
Article and photo by Craig Romano
Marvel at impressive bluffs and wander onto
inviting gravel bars at River Meadows Park.
Location: South Fork Stillaguamish River, near Arlington
Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks
Roundtrip: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Contact: Snohomish County Parks (360) 435-3441; www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/departments/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.
One of Snohomish County Parks’ loveliest properties, River Meadows Park offers delightful year round hiking and camping. With over 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. And while these sturdy structures will provide you with a warm and dry retreat after your hike—they’ll soon be even cozier. Park personnel are currently adding solar panels to the yurts that will provide more warmth on those cold winter nights.
Now, don’t let a brisk 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 roundtrip 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.
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 www.stillaguamish.nsn.us/festival.htm
For information on lodging and other attractions near River Meadows, visit www.snohomish.org.