Jay Lake — Solitude and camping at Wallace Falls State Park

Quick Facts:

Location: Skykomish River Valley, US 2

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 11.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1,575 feet

Green Trails Map: 

Contact: Wallace Falls State Park 

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs must be leashed; Camping requires a permit-attain from park prior to trip.

Access: From Everett, follow US 2 for 28 miles east to Gold Bar. Turn left onto 1st Street and proceed for .4 mile. Then turn right onto May Creek Road and continue for 1.5 miles to Wallace Falls State Park and trailhead.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow free winter hiking; waterfalls; backpacking opportunities



Peaceful Jay Lake on a quiet spring day.

Wallace Falls is one of Washington’s busiest and most popular state parks. You’d be hard pressed to find solitude there even on a rainy day in winter. Yet, while thousands of hikers each month take to trails to the park’s spectacular series of thundering waterfalls, you can still find solitude here. But, you’ll have leave the waterfalls and work for it!

There are miles of trails and old woods roads within this state park and adjacent DNR-property. And several of these routes are lightly traveled. One of the loneliest spots in the park is Jay Lake, reached by a long but enjoyable hike. To reach it, follow hordes of happy hikers to the Woody Trail. Then continue to the Railroad Cut-off Trail taking this short but steep path 0.1 mile to an old logging railroad grade now a wide trail. Turn right and after a third of a mile reach the Greg Ball Trail.

A former board member and director of the Washington Trails Association (WTA), Ball launched WTA’s volunteer trail maintenance program back in 1993. It has since grown into the largest state-based program of its kind. In 2004 at the age of 60, Ball passed away after battling cancer. He had designed this trail to Wallace Lake.

Paralleling the North Fork of the Wallace River, this trail gracefully meanders through mature second growth. After a half mile the way steepens and the forest grows darker. But an agreeable grade and forest soon returns. At about 3.0 miles from the trailhead the river can be seen cascading through a narrow chasm. About a half mile farther the trail terminates at a DNR Road. Turn right on the road for a short 0.1 mile to a junction with an old road taking off left. Then follow this near level forested way for .5 mile to the southern tip of large and tranquil Wallace Lake.


One of two potentially tricky creek crossings.

Continue left .7 mile on an old road along the lake’s forested shoreline to where the North Fork Wallace River (here more of a creek) flows into the lake at inviting Pebble Beach. Now cross the North Fork (good luck keeping your boots dry) and continue on a lonely stretch of trail to Jay Lake. Pass some moisture loving Sitka Spruce, a rarity this far inland from the coast—then hop across another creek.

One more boot soaking creek crossing must be negotiated before you arrive at the quiet and more than likely deserted Jay Lake. Find a backcountry camping area (inquire within the park for a camping permit) and picnic table set amidst a grove of hemlocks. The lake’s shoreline is brushy making it difficult to reach its waters. But none-the-less, the location is soothing and feels quite remote. Pretty amazing too when you consider that while you listen to quiet breezes and thrush and wren song here at Jay Lake, hundreds of hikers are wearing down the tread near the waterfalls!

For information on lodging and other attractions near Jay Lake visit  www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more information on hiking Wallace Falls State Park and other snow-free hiking destinations throughout Western Washington, consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington Deck.Winter Hikes Card DeckGet your copy today!

Meadowdale Beach—Reach the Beach through an Emerald Gulch

Follow Lunds Creek through a deep ravine to a beautiful beach

Follow Lunds Creek through a deep ravine to a beautiful beach

Quick Facts:

Location: Lynnwood

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 425 feet

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Special Notes: Dogs must be leashed; park open 7 am to dusk: do not park on road

Access: From Everett, head 10 miles south on I-5 to exit 183. Follow 164th Street SW west for 1.5 miles bearing left onto 44th Ave W to a traffic light. Turn right onto 168th Street SW and continue west passing SR 99. After .5 mile turn right onto 52nd Ave W. In another half mile turn left onto 160th Street SW. In .25 mile turn right on 56th Ave W. In another .25 mile turn left onto 156th Street SW following to park entrance.

Good to know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike, beach walking, 


Hike through a deep green ravine cradling a salmon-spawning stream to a quiet Puget Sound beach granting sweeping views of Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains. Meadowdale Beach Park’s Lunds Gulch forms a green swath in heavily suburbanized south Snohomish County. The trail begins in a small grassy opening on a forested bluff. It immediately enters a mature forest of Douglas-fir and wastes no time dropping more than 400-feet into the emerald ravine. Sturdy steps constructed by the Washington Trails Association help you negotiate the descent.

Big boughs of ferns line the way. So do hefty cedar and hemlock stumps, testaments to the giants that once flourished here before pioneering loggers “discovered” them. Not all of the big trees here were harvested though; a few giant firs, cottonwoods, and Sitka spruce still stand tall within the lush gulch. John Lund first homesteaded this rugged tract back in 1878. It is nicely reverting back to its wilder days. The trail crosses some side creeks eventually coming alongside the small creek named after Lund. The waterway makes a short journey to the sound. But it’s an important run supporting spawning salmon. Come in the fall to see them.

In one mile the trail comes to a junction. The path left leads to the ranger’s residence and to picnic tables scattered about on a manicured lawn. You’ll find a restroom here, too. Much of this area once sported a country club complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and bath houses. In 1968 the county parks department acquired this property and began transforming it into a topnotch natural and recreational gem. Continue hiking straight along the creek and through forest eventually coming to a railroad underpass. Now make tracks under the tracks to reach the beach. When the tide is low you can roam for some distance on extensive flats. Rest on a driftwood log, comb the shore, and enjoy a splendid view of Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains. Sunsets are supreme here, but don’t forget to allot yourself some daylight for the return to your vehicle.


For information on lodging and other attractions near Meadowdale Beach visit www.snohomish.org

For detailed information on lots of hikes you can do year round in the Puget Sound Area, consult one of my Urban Trails guidebooks. Urban Trails Everett will be released later this year. Meanwhile pick up a copy of Urban Trails Bellingham and hit the trail!Get your copy today!

Index Town Wall –Steep and stunning hike above the Forks of the Sky


Stunning view of Index and the rugged peaks of the Wild Sky Wilderness

Quick Facts:

Location: Skykomish River Valley near Index

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.6 miles

Elevation gain: 1,300 feet

Green Trails Maps: Alpine Lakes Stevens Pass Map 176S

Contact: Washington State Parks 

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs must be leashed

Access: From Everett follow US 2 east for 36 miles. Turn left onto North Fork Road (Index-Galena Road) and continue for 1.0 mile. Turn left onto 5th street. Cross river into Index and proceed to second stop sign turning left onto Index Ave. Follow for  .3 mile (road bends south to become 2nd Street) to stop sign. Turn right onto Ave A and follow .6 mile (road becomes Reiter Road) to parking area on right.

Good to Know:  snow-free winter hike, exceptional view; steep drop-off -exercise caution especially with children and dogs, practice Leave No Trace Principles 



The Index Town Wall is imposing from below.The only landmark more stunning and impressive rising above the little town of Index than Mount Index, is the Index Town Wall. Forming a 1,200-foot backdrop of sheer granite cliffs, the Index Town Wall is imposing and awe inspiring. Renown among climbers for its 50-plus routes and some of the best vertical in the Northwest, a not-so-well known hiking trail also leads to its top.

The only landmark more stunning and impressive rising above the little town of Index than Mount Index, is the Index Town Wall. Forming a 1,200-foot backdrop of sheer granite cliffs, the Index Town Wall is imposing and awe inspiring. Renown among climbers for its 50-plus routes and some of the best vertical in the Northwest, a not-so-well known hiking trail also leads to its top.

Washington State Parks has acquired much of the wall guaranteeing public access. Part of the Forks of the Sky State Park, this fairly new park consists of more than 1,400 acres at the confluence of the Skykomish River and its North Fork. Paddlers, picnickers, and anglers have much to be thankful too with this park. While it is a separate park unit, it is currently being administered by Wallace Falls State Park.

From the parking area, walk up a service road and immediately cross (use caution) a set of railroad tracks. Straight ahead a series of climber paths diverge through a new addition of the park, thanks to the Bullitt Foundation. Continue right on the service road (staying off the tracks as it is an active line) listening to climbers clambering above. About a .25 mile from the parking area you’ll come to a picnic table in front of a big steel door in the cliff face. Behind this door is a 200 foot bore created to test a machine used for tunneling under the English Channel.

Locate the trail to the top of the Index Wall to the right of the picnic table at forest edge. While unmarked—it’s obvious. Now begin a steep grunt, ascending nearly 1,300 feet in just over one mile. The trail is fairly well built though, marching up steep slopes; and ducking under, around and over overhanging ledges. The entire way is forested and not exposed. Climbing paths diverge from the main path and you’ll want to avoid these lest ending up in a spot you’d rather not be. Just keep following well placed arrowed signs leading the way.


The “mystery” door!

After 1.2 miles you’ll reach an old rocky skid road that doubles as a creek bed. Stay to the right of a cable fence and follow this rocky route .1 mile to the top of the wall. Exercise extreme caution approaching the edge of the cliff. Then clutch your heart and catch your breath taking in an absolutely amazing view. Gaze directly below at the town of Index perched along the North Fork of the Skykomish River against a dramatic cloud piercing backdrop of Wild Sky Wilderness Peaks; Gunn, Merchant and Baring. Stay for awhile fully mesmerized—you earned this view!

 For information on lodging and other attractions near the Index Town Wall, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For detailed information on other hikes nearby and along US 2 from Everett to Wenatchee, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades guidebook.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!


All content and images on this site are copy written material and MAY NOT be used without the written permission from Craig Romano, owner of Hike of the Week.

Beaver Lake Loop–wetland wonderland on Lord Hill


A placid Beaver Lake on a beautiful winter’s day.

Location: Lord Hill Park near Snohomish

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.2 miles

High Point: 650 feet

Elevation gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: easy

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Notes: Dogs must be on leash; Map available online

Access:  From Everett, head east on US 2 for 8.0 miles and take 88th Street SE Exit. Turn right onto 88th Street SE (which eventually becomes 2nd Street) and drive 0.6 mile. Then turn left onto Lincoln Ave which becomes the Old Snohomish-Monroe Highway and drive for 2.7 miles. Next turn right onto 127th Ave SE and proceed for 1.6 miles to park entrance and trailhead on your left.

Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow-free winter hike, good trail running destination

The crown jewel of the Snohomish County Park system, Lord Hill contains over 1,460 acres of undeveloped ridge along the 029Snohomish River between the bustling communities of Snohomish and Monroe. Traversed by more than 30 miles of trails and several old woods roads, the park offers plenty of good hiking options. Enjoy quiet woodland walks, wetlands explorations, riverside rambling, and a couple of scenic viewpoints, too. A popular and fairly easy trip and one that can be enjoyed by hikers of all ages and abilities is the 2.2 mile Beaver Lake Loop.

From the main parking area and trailhead set out on a fine wide path for .4 mile gently dropping to a junction. You’ll be returning on the path to the right, so head left through a tunnel of alders. After another .4 mile reach a junction with the Pipeline Trail, a main thoroughfare through the park along a buried pipeline. Marshy wildlife rich Beaver Lake (not quite a lake actually) lies just to the left. Scan the reeds and snags for avian life.

Now continue south along the lake’s shore and after another .3 mile reach a four way junction. The Pipeline Trail continues straight ahead remaining high on a forested ridge.  The trail left heads to Temple Pond, a nice one mile side trip loop. Check it out or head right on the Pipeline Cut-off Trail reaching the park’s Main Trail after another .1 mile.

Now follow this trail right avoiding side trails and return back to the trailhead after 1.0 mile. This loop is a good choice any time of year, but it particularly makes for a good late fall or winter walk. And when the rare occurrence of a blanketing snow covers the park, the Beaver Lake Loop makes for an excellent introductory snowshoe route. The wide trail and gentle grades extends a friendly welcome to novice snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

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

For more information on snow free winter hikes in western Washington consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington deck.

Get your copy today!

Get your copy today!

Swauk Forest Discovery Trail—Golden forest beneath the Diamond Head

Discover the beauty of larches in autumn along this trail

Discover the beauty of larches in autumn along this trail

Quick Facts:

Location: Blewett Pass

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Green Trails Map: Wenatchee/ Mission Ridge, WA- No 211S

Contact: Cle Elum Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest 

Access: From Cle Elum follow WA 970 east for 7.0 miles to US 97. Continue north on US 97 for 14.0 miles to Blewett Pass. Turn right onto FR 9716 and proceed .4 mile to trailhead.

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Delightful to hike any season, in autumn the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail is golden thanks to its abundance of western larches. But there are other trees lining this family friendly loop trail, too. And you can learn all about them and the practice of silviculture (forest management) at numerous interpretive signs along the way.

Despite being located just off of Blewett Pass on busy US 97, this well developed trail is lightly visited (and unfortunately sees 095little maintenance-so expect some blowdowns). Constructed by the Northwest Youth Corp in 1992, the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail is meant to enlighten visitors on forest management practices and how they are implemented by the Forest Service. Pamphlets may be available at the trailhead kiosk for you to take along. And while you may not want to make 25 stops along the way to learn about forestry practices, do definitely stop at the tree identification plaques.

The trail contours a ridge above the highway meandering through patches of forest in varying age categories. At about .6 mile enjoy a nice view west to Teanaway Ridge. Then traverse a sunny slope of ponderosa pines. Gradually climb, round a ridge and head east watching for deer along the way and enjoying excellent views out to Diamond Head. In autumn larches set this locally prominent peak aglow.

At 1.4 miles reach a junction. Turn left to shorten your trip or continue right for the best part. Cross FR 9717 and wind your way up to a 4,550-foot knoll with excellent views north to Tronsen Ridge, west to Mount Stuart and the Enchantment Range and south all the way to Mount Rainier. Now close the loop by meandering through impressive ponderosa pine groves returning to the trailhead in 2.8 miles. Consider a return trip in winter with your snowshoes.

For more information on this hike and 124 others nearby;

Check out my Central Cascades Day Hiking book!