Land Agency: Mukilteo Parks and Recreation
Contact: Mukilteo Recreation Department
Roundtrip: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Access: From Everett follow SR 526 to SR 525. Turn left (south) on SR 525 and drive .5 mile to 92nd Street. Turn right and then immediately turn left into the 92nd Street Park parking area.
Notes: Dogs must be on leash.
Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow-free winter hike, urban trail
Once logged for its cedars and firs and slated for a massive refinery, today Big Gulch is a southern Snohomish County greenbelt graced with several miles of trails and offering some fairly wild roaming just minutes from busy Paine Field. The Mukilteo Parks Department along with a slew of volunteers have built and upgraded trails within this big green gully. The trail system has recently been expanded too, offering some decent distance and a loop. Hikers familiar with nearby Meadowdale County Park’s Lunds Gulch will particularly like this hike for its similar features and as a quieter alternative destination.
Once owned by the Port Gamble Lumber Company, the gulch and surrounding bluffs were heavily logged in the early 20th century. But a few big trees were left behind in the tight confines of the gulch. In the 1960s the Chevron Oil Company owned the land and proposed a refinery for it. By the 1980s it was slated for the Harbour Pointe development which eventually became part of the city of Mukilteo. While homes and businesses replaced the second and third growth forests on the bluffs, Big Gulch and the Picnic Point Creek drainages (sometimes referred to as the Chevron parklands) remained green.
The growing city finally decided to utilize the gulch for more than just a greenbelt and make it a trail haven. Locate the signed and arched trailhead for Big Gulch at the southeast corner of the 92nd Street Park. Walk a short distance coming to a junction. The trail left heads back to the sidewalk along SR 525. The trail right–the North Fork Trail, utilizes sturdy steps dropping into the gulch. The trail work here is topnotch. The ambience here is wild despite the fact that houses and businesses occupy the bluffs above. Throughout most of the gulch you are unaware of that!
Cross Big Gulch Creek on a nice bridge and soon come to a junction with an old road. The way left climbs out of the gulch leading to the Staybridge Suites, an alternative starting point. It also connects with the Library Trail offering a loop. Head right and before coming to a wide bridge immediately come to another junction with the South Fork Trail. You’ll be heading that way eventually. First continue right on the wide West Fork Trail following a sewer line along Big Gulch Creek. Despite the occasional whiff of effluent, the area is pretty wild and the walking quite enjoyable. After crossing a boardwalk, the trail leaves the sewer line and begins to climb above the creek. On new and well built trail traverse steep slopes high above the creek. Pass a couple of viewpoints and slowly descend. Eventually catch a glimpse of the sound before the trail terminates on a service road. Turn around here and retrace your steps one mile to the South Fork Trail junction.
Now head right (south) following a tributary up and out of the gulch. This section of trail is very nice passing big trees and small cascades in the tight gully. The way gradually reclaims lost elevation ending its journey at the Mukilteo Library on Harbour Pointe Road. You can either retrace your steps back to the 92nd Street Park or walk Harbour Pointe Road a short distance turning left onto SR 525 returning to the park on a lovely section of sidewalk that offers glimpses down into the emerald gulch. Or even better, follow the new Library Trail along the Gulch’s rim coming to the old service road. Then turn left here and pick up the North Fork Trail again. Tackle those stairs going up this time and return to your start.
For information on lodging and other attractions near Big Gulch visit www.snohomish.org.
Big Gulch is one of the featured hikes in my FREE Hiking in Snohomish County booklet. Pick up your free copy at a Snohomish County Tourism Bureau Center or download your copy here.
Looking for other great snow-free hikes in Western Washington? Pick up a copy of my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck. You’ll find detailed descriptions including maps to 50 hikes from the Columbia River Gorge to the British Columbia border.