Sultan River Canyon Trail — A near yet remote canyon housing big trees and a wild stretch of river

DSC03642Quick Facts:

Location: Sultan Basin

Land Agency: Snohomish County Public Utility District 

Roundtrip: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 850 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Access:  From Everett follow US 2 east to Sultan. At a traffic light just past Milepost 23 turn left onto Sultan Basin Road. Follow for 13.2 miles (pavement ends at 10.4 miles) to an information kiosk. Stop and sign-in acknowledging that you understand the rules and regulations for visiting the Sultan Basin which is Everett’s public water supply. Then bear left at a Y-intersection and continue 1.6 miles to parking area and trailhead.

Contact:  Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest 

Notes: Register (no fee) at kiosk at watershed entrance; dogs permitted on leash

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly,




Opened in 2015, this new trail takes you deep into the Sultan River Canyon where towering old growth trees and steep slopes shade a remote section of the Sultan River. The hike starts on a gated dirt road near the entrance of the parking area. Walk this road through pleasant forest gradually climbing about 250 feet.

After one mile, come to the beginning of the actual trail which is clearly signed. Now begin your descent into the deep dark canyon. Via a good grade the way switchbacks downward into the rugged canyon. The steep slopes here prevented past loggers from harvesting the canyon’s towering old trees. You’ll pass some impressive ancient giants. You’ll pass some nice small seasonal cascades too.


At 2.2 miles reach the canyon’s lush bottom and the rippling Sultan River. During the summer months, sunlight reaches the canyon floor allowing you to prop on a riverside rock and enjoy a sunny spot along the river. Watch for dippers flitting in the cool waters. After enjoying this quiet and remote spot prepare for your return journey where a 600 foot climb out of the canyon waits for you.


For information on lodging and other attractions near the Sultan Basin visit: www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

 For detailed information on this and other area hikes along US 2, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades, which contains 125 hikes complete with maps61ftQ+y-mgL

Swan Lake and Butte–listen to the cry of the loon

Loons nest on Swan Lake.

Loons nest on Northeastern Washington’s Swan Lake.

Quick Facts:

NOTE: Road to Swan Lake has been damaged due to winter storms and may not be open. Call Republic Ranger District for road status (509) 775-7400

Location: Colville National Forest, near Republic

Land Agency: US Forest Service

Roundtrip: 3.1 miles

Elevation gain: 360 feet

Contact: Colville National Forest

Notes: Dogs permitted on leash, but are not allowed on the beach.

Access: From Republic follow SR 21 south 6.7 miles turning right onto FR 53 (Scatter Creek Road). Follow for 7.3 miles to Swan Lake Campground and another .3 mile to the Day Use area and trailhead.


Hike around a lovely little lake encircled by cool forest high above the sweltering Sanpoil River Valley. A popular swimming hole for Ferry County residents, Swan Lake is also popular with breeding loons. Wander along the lake’s tranquil shoreline in early evening or morning and have an On Golden Pond moment listening to this beautiful and threatened bird’s eerie and primeval calls. Look for moose too and black bears, for Swan swarms with wildlife.


From the Day Use parking lot, head down a stairway to the lakeshore to pick up the trail. Head right passing a swimming area and a rustic kitchen shelter constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) during the Great Depression. Then continue on the trail rounding a boggy area. Free of gas-powered boats, the lake and surrounding forest are quite serene. But quiet this place is not—the air is filled with the chatter of ground and Douglas squirrels and a cacophony of bird song; nuthatches, chickadees, and warblers among them. The buzz of mosquitoes is a frequent sound too early in the season.

Up and over ledge, through pine and fir groves, beneath big cottonwoods and larch, and across patches of huckleberries, the trail follows along Swan’s shoreline. In late spring, arnica, lupine, penstemon, and wild strawberries brighten up the tread with087their cheery blossoms.

At 1.3 miles after rounding a ledge providing excellent lake views, reach a junction. The trail right leads to Swan Butte, a nice side trip—take it. Follow the flower lined trail .5 mile to the 3,960-foot butte with its tattered flag and decent views of the Kettle River Range to the east.

Retrace your steps back to the junction and resume looping around the lake. The way passes by a quiet cove before utilizing an old road lined with cedars. At 2.7 miles, come to FR 53. Turn left. Pass the boat launch and pick up the trail once more as it travels .4 mile through the campground back to the spur leading to the Day Use Area

For detailed information on this hike including maps; and information on other great hikes in the Colville National Forest, consult my hot-off-the-press Day Hiking Eastern Washington book (co-written with Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review).

Day Hiking Eastn Washington

 Great camping at Swan Lake or consider staying at the Northern Inn in nearby Republic.


Snoquera Falls — A touch of the Yosemite Valley in Washington


DSC00867Quick Facts:

Location: White River Valley

Land Agency:  Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 4.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 750 feet

Contact: Snoqualmie Ranger District, Enumclaw office

Green Trails Map: Greenwater no. 238

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required; Dogs permitted on leash

Access: From Enumclaw, follow SR 410 east for 28 miles. Turn left onto Camp Sheppard access road and reach trailhead in 0.1 mile.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, impressive waterfall

 From high on Dalles Ridge, Snoquera Creek plunges more than 400 feet down a sheer rock face. Resembling a scene straight out of Yosemite Valley, Snoquera Falls are indeed a sensational sight. But there’s a catch. If you do this hike late in the summer after a long dry stretch, the falls appear as a mere trickle. Fed primarily by snowmelt, Snoquera Falls are best witnessed in the spring and after periods of heavy rainfall.

Starting from the Camp Sheppard Trailhead, head east immediately coming to an outdoor amphitheater used by the adjacent DSC00872Boy Scout Camp. Here the beautifully built (by the Scouts) Moss Lake Loop Nature Trail circles around for 0.6 mile. Since the hike to the falls is fairly short, definitely consider adding the Moss Lake Loop to your hike. A good portion of this trail traverses an impressive grove of ancient cedars via boardwalks. Moss Lake is actually a large wetland fed by several tumbling creeks, among them Snoquera Creek.

The main trail crosses Snoquera Creek and climbs to a junction. Here the White River Trail runs north and south for miles through thick timber paralleling SR 410. You’ll be returning on the White River Trail section to the left. So continue hiking straight on the Snoquera Falls Trail. Beneath a cool emerald canopy the well maintained trail steadily ascends. Stay left at an unmarked junction where a trail leads right to SR 410.

Continue climbing making a couple of sweeping switchbacks. Pass a few big old growth giants along the way before reaching forest’s edge at the base of a large wall of sheer cliffs. Look up! Pummeling over that vertical rock for more than 400 feet is Snoquera Creek. The first tier of the falls is nearly 300 feet with water plunging straight down. The second tier of the falls has the creek fanning out. If you’ve hiked in the Yosemite Valley, these falls look like they could be right out of that iconic California national park. But cast a glance westward across the White River and you’ll see Sun Top and its radiating verdant ridges—classic Cascade Mountains.

Work your way across rockier tread and cross the creek. You’ll need to rock hop or get your feet wet here as there is no bridge. If the creek is too intimidating to cross, return the way you came. If you can negotiate the crossing you’ll soon come to an unmarked junction. Sure-footed hikers may want to take the very rough and steep trail right which toils its way to the base of the falls. Use extreme caution on this route, as it is laden with loose rocks and when wet can be downright hazardous.

The loop continues north across a decade-old rockslide. The footing may be a little difficult here, but it shouldn’t pose any major problems for most hikers. The way then descends more gently than the approach—traversing beneath high cliffs and making a few switchbacks. At 2.6 miles reach a junction once again with the White River Trail. Now turn left and head up valley on the White River Trail. Hike 1.2 nearly level miles through quiet forest skirting Camp Sheppard and returning to a familiar junction. Then head right to return to your start. If you saved Moss Lake for the return divert onto that loop and savor the serenity before hitting the road to head home.


Get your copy today!!

For other spectacular waterfall and other hikes throughout Washington state, pick up a copy of my best-selling 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books)

Blythe and Chukar Lakes─Birds and beauty in the Channeled Scablands

DSC06472Location: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Grant County

Land Agency: U.S. Department of the Interior

Contact: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

Roundtrip: 3.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Note: Dogs permitted on leash. Be snake and tick aware


Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, spring wildflowers, exceptional birdwatching

Access: From Spokane, take I-90 west to Exit 179 in Moses Lake. Head south on SR 17 for 2.0 miles turning right onto Road M SE. Follow for 6.4 miles turning right onto SR 262. Continue west for 6 miles turning left at MP 14 (across from the Mar Don Resort) onto a gravel road signed for public fishing, Blythe, Corral, and Chukar Lakes. (From Seattle take I-90 east to Exit 137. Then follow SR 26 for 25 miles east turning left onto SR 262. Continue 14 miles to lake turnoff) Drive this road passing Corral Lake and entering the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in 1.3 miles. The road ends in 1.7 miles at Blythe Lake. Trail begins at a gated road.


Watch for ticks along the grassy trail.

The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is a land of incredible natural diversity supporting important habitat for both breeding and migratory birds including sandhill cranes. An area of imposing basaltic coulees littered with lakes and marshes, it’s an oasis in an area that receives just over 7 inches of rain a year. Situated in the Channeled Scablands, a region formed by ancient cataclysmic floods; the lakes came to be through seepage from surrounding reclamation and irrigation projects. Both nature and man have left a large imprint here greatly benefiting scores of avian residents. The Columbia NWR protects nearly 30,000 acres of this enchanting landscape.

The hike along Blythe Lake to Chukar Lake is one of the many delightful explorations you can make in this harsh but beautiful environment. Beginning on an old road gently climb to a bluff overlooking the long and cliff enclosed Blythe Lake. Drop to marshy flats (teeming with mosquitoes in late spring) and after .5 mile, leave the old jeep track for a trail diverging right. Now traverse steep slopes climbing to a broad bench above the lake. Enjoy views of Blythe and the surrounding coulee.

Continue walking eastward on good trail for a short ways eventually coming to another old road turned trail. Bear left (east), and hike towards a beautiful basaltic cliff face. Crest a ridge that reveals Chukar Lake hiding below. Enjoy the lake from the ridge then follow the road down to Chukar’s east end. Call it a day or consider exploring smaller Scaup Lake and the extensive wetlands of the Marsh Unit I and II restoration projects by following old roads. Look for avocets, terns, quails, geese, and the myriad of songbirds and ducks. And throughout March watch the skies for migrating sandhill cranes. Their prehistoric calls announce their presence.

For detailed information on other hikes within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge; and other great hikes (125 in all) throughout Eastern Washington, pick up a copy of my (co-written with Rich Landers) Day Hiking Eastern Washington (Mountaineers Books)!Day Hiking Eastn Washington

For information on where to stay and other places to play throughout Eastern Washington, consult NW Tripfinder!NWTFmasthead_layers15

Nakashima Barn─Northern portal to long distance Centennial Trail

The 29.5 mile Centennial Trail ends (or begins) at the Nakashima Heritage Barn

The 29.5 mile Centennial Trail ends (or
begins) at the Nakashima Heritage Barn

Quick Facts

Location: SR 9 just south of Skagit County line

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 8.0 miles

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Access: From Arlington (junction of SR 530-SR 9), follow SR 9 north for 7.6 miles turning left into park. Proceed .1 mile to parking area.

Notes: Dogs must be on leash.

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Good to Know: kid-friendly, wheelchair and jogger stroller friendly, snow-free winter hike, dog-friendly, paved rail trail

The Nakashima Barn County Park offers access to the northern trailhead of the extremely popular Snohomish Centennial Trail. Here at the restored heritage barn, you can set out on four miles of rural and wooded trail all the way to Bryant. Heck, you can set out from the barn for 29.5 miles all the way to the city of Snohomish. But that’s probably better done by bike than by hike.

05.A Centennial Trail Nakashima

The Centennial Trail is a great place to run and perfect for all ages.

While the main draw of the park will definitely be the trail, be sure to check out the restored barn. The barn’s farm has a long, fascinating, and somber history. Farming operations began on this rolling property just south of Lake McMurray shortly after the turn of the 20th century by Daniel Waldo Bass and his wife Sophie. Sophie’s grandfather was A. A. Denny, the “Father of Seattle,” who landed at Alki Point in November 13, 1851. In 1937 Bass sold the farm to Japanese-American Takeo Nakashima. Nakashima with the enlistment of his family continued a dairy operation on the property.

However, after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Nakashima family was sent in 1942 to internment camps in Idaho and California and was forced to sell their farm. Over the years the farm changed hands many times and dairying operations eventually ceased. In 1997 the Trust for Public Land purchased 89 acres of the farm including the only remaining structure, the barn, and turned it over to the county to become a park. In 2007 the barn was listed on Washington’s heritage barn register, becoming the state’s first and only one so far belonging to an Asian-American farming family. It was restored this year and houses murals of historic photos.

While the farm once encompassed 1,200 acres, most of the surrounding land is still rural. The county park preserves mainly wetland meadows. Most of the land west of the park is thick timber belonging to the Pilchuck Tree Farm and is managed for sustainable forestry, recreation and wildlife management.

From the barn to Bryant, the Centennial Trail passes mainly through woodlands, presenting a much wilder side than its southern sections. Follow the trail from the barn passing the dedication monument and skirting a wetland pool. Then cross the creek named Tributary 80. Shortly afterward the trail bends south. Here an unpaved (and open for hiking) section of the Centennial Trail heads north into Skagit County. Trail advocates hope that someday soon this section too will be paved and extended all the way to the Cascade Trail.

Explore if you wish or keep following the Centennial Trail south through a thick forest of maple, alder, fir and the occasional Sitka spruce, coming to Pilchuck Creek at about 2.6 miles. This is a good spot to turn around. But, if you feel like continuing, cross the creek on a high bridge and continue another 1.4 miles to Bryant where you can stop at the country store for a snack, or keep going all the way to Arlington—and beyond!

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Nakashima Barn visit

The Centennial Trail will be featured in my upcoming Urban Trails Everett book slated for release in 2018. Meanwhile, for nearby year-round hikes north of Everett, check out my newly released Urban Trails Bellingham (Mountaineers Books).UrbanTrails_Bellingham_WEB

Get your copy today!