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!

Lake Cassidy─ADA Trail to a pretty lake along the Centennial Trail

A boardwalk provides access for hikers of all abilities to Lake Cassidy.

A boardwalk provides access for hikers
of all abilities to Lake Cassidy.

Quick Facts:

Location: Marysville

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Access: From Marysville (Exit 199 I-5) follow SR 528 for 3.0 miles east to SR 9. Head north on SR 9 for 1.0 mile to junction with 84th Street NE. Turn right (east) and continue for just shy of a 0.5 mile to Getchell Trailhead.

Contact: Snohomish County Parks



Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, ADA-accessible, Snow-free Winter hike

Located just a few miles east of bustling Marysville is 120-plus acre Lake Cassidy, a semi-wild waterway on the suburban fringe. Surrounded by wetlands and hardwood forest, nearly 300 acres along the lake’s northern shores and around nearby Lake Martha are protected as Washington State Fish and Wildlife lands. The lake is accessible by an ADA trail too allowing disabled and physically challenged hikers an opportunity to cast a line in this trout-stocked lake. The ADA trail connects to the paved Centennial Trail allowing for a longer approach and nice family friendly hike.

Disabled hikers can access Lake Cassidy from a trailhead off of 105th Ave NE a quarter mile south of the lake. Permits are required for this trailhead and can be obtained by applying to the Snohomish County Parks Department. For the hike described here, begin at the Getchell Trailhead off of 84th Street NE. Beginning in the defunct railroad community of Getchell, head south on the Centennial Trail through one of the more rural and scenic sections of this popular trail. This former railroad line threads woodlots and remnant farmlands on the edge of suburbia between the city of Snohomish and the Skagit County border. This section to Lake Cassidy is among the wildest along the 29 mile trail. Paved and with little elevation change, this hike is an easy journey for all outdoors lovers including those in wheelchairs.

Within a half mile the trail brushes up against the nearly 300-acre Lake Martha and Lake Cassidy state wildlife lands. This tract protects little Lake Martha with its sphagnum bog as well as much of the eastern shoreline of 123-acre Lake Cassidy, harboring a wide variety of plants and animals including bears, ospreys, eagles, pileated woodpeckers, and a couple of threatened sedges.

After about 1.25 miles of pleasant wandering, reach the Lake Cassidy Interpretive Center, composing of an educational kiosk, picnic area and a sturdy boardwalk projecting into the reed and cattail ringed lake. The lake is large but fairly shallow. A handful of structures occupy the far shore, but much of this body of water remains in an undeveloped state. Sit for awhile and scan the reeds for birds. If you feel like stretching your legs out a little more, continue walking south on the Centennial Trail towards Lake Stevens.


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

For infomation on other great snow-free hikes and walks nearby, consult my Urban Trails Bellingham book!


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!

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge– Delightful hiking on the delta


Quick Facts:

Location: Nisqually River Delta

Land Agency: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Roundtrip: 4.2 miles

Elevation Gain: minimal

Contact: Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Map: Refuge Map

Notes: $3.00 per four adults entrance fee; or Interagency Passes accepted; dogs prohibited; Northern end of the Nisqually Estuary Trail is closed from October to late January for hunting season; trails closed at dusk.

Access: From Olympia or Tacoma take I-5 to Exit 114. Then turn left from Olympia or right from Tacoma and follow Brown Farm Road for .7 mile to parking and trailhead at the Refuge Visitor Center.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, interpretive, snow-free winter hike, exceptional birdwatching,                              wildlife observation


Wedged between Olympia and Tacoma, the 3,100-acre Billy Frank Jr Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the last remaining relatively undeveloped river deltas in southern Puget Sound. An important stop for migratory birds, the refuge is home to plenty of species year round as well. One of the best bird and wildlife viewing spots in the Puget Trough, what really makes visiting Nisqually a sheer delight is its more than one mile elevated boardwalk trail.

The refuge was established in 1974 at the mouth of the glacier-fed Nisqually River. Much of the river’s delta was part of the Brown Dairy Farm prior to the establishment of the refuge. During this period, more than five miles of dikes were built to reclaim salt flats. In 2009, refuge officials removed four miles of the dikes restoring more than 760 acres of tidal salt flats. The large twin barns of the old farm however still remain where interpretive signs explain the refuge’s history and ecological importance.

In 2015 the refuge became known as the Billy Frank Jr Nisqually NWR. Frank Jr who died in 2014 was a member of the Nisqually Tribe.  Through many acts of civil disobedience, he challenged the state and federal governments to honor the Medicine Creek Treaty (particularly tribal hunting and fishing rights) which was signed in 1854 on land now within the refuge. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2015. Having the refuge named after him is a fitting honor.

There are basically two trails within the refuge, the Twin Barns Loop and the Nisqually Estuary Trail. You can opt for an easy one mile hike on the Twin Barns Loop—or extend your outing with the 1.6 mile Nisqually Estuary Trail. Start your adventure from the visitor center heading counter clockwise on the Twin Barns Loop. This entire trail is a wide boardwalk skirting sloughs, dikes, and wetland pools that teem with wildlife.

At the historic Twin Barns check out the interpretive panels and wildlife viewing areas. More than 300 species of birds, amphibians, and mammals inhabit the refuge. Then head onto the Nisqually Estuary Trail following a dike at first—then onto a 1.1 mile long snaking elevated boardwalk. It is one of the most unique and pure-delight to walk trails within the state.  The boardwalk will take you out into the delta providing excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and good views of Anderson Island and the Tacoma Narrows. When the tide is out you’ll walk over glistening and gurgling mud and salt flats. Depending on the season, look for eagles, dunlins, sandpipers, falcons, merlins, purple martins and geese. Follow the boardwalk back to the Twin Barns and complete the loop by walking past more waterfowl and amphibian rich wetland pools.


For detailed information on this trail and many more in the region, pick up a copy of my NEW Urban Trails Olympia (Mountaineers books).

This wonderful guide includes trails throughout Thurston County, in Shelton, on Harstine Island, and in the Capitol State Forest. Pick up your copy today!


For information on other things to do in the area and on where to stay, consult Northwest TripFinder.

Turtlehead — It’s one shell of a view from this Turtleback Mountain summit

Quick Facts:

Location: Orcas Island, San Juan Islands

Land Agency: San Juan County Land Bank

Roundtrip: 5.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1295 feet

Contact: San Juan County Land Bank

Notes: Dogs permitted on leash; trail (partial) open to bikes (even days) and horses (odd days)

Access: Take Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island. Then head north on Orcas Road turning left onto Nordstrom Lane. Continue to Crow Valley Road and turn right. Reach trailhead after 1.6 miles.

Good to Know: snow-free winter hike, kid-friendly, dog-friendly, summer wildflowers, Practice Leave No Trace Principles, One of the 100 Washington Classic Hikes


Stand atop Turtleback Mountain’s head for one shell of a view. It’s one the finest in the San Juan Islands. Stare out across the Salish Sea to countless islands extending to British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. A great winter hike; be sure to return in the spring when brilliant wildflowers make this peak a painted turtle.

Start your hike on an old skid road that almost become a private drive to scores of showy ridge top homes. But this road to 1519-foot Turtleback Mountain and 1,578 acres surrounding it became one of the largest protected parcels in the San Juan Islands, thanks to a campaign spearheaded by the San Juan Preservation Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and the San Juan County Land Bank.  In 2007 the Turtleback Mountain Conservation Area was officially opened to the public. And thanks to the San Juan Preservation Trust it has since grown to 1,718 acres.

Follow the old road now known as the North Trail.  After some gentle climbing, come to a junction. The short spur right leads to the North Valley Overlook. Consider it for a good view of Orcas’ Mount Constitution, Entrance Mountain, and Mount Woodard.

The North Trail continues climbing, winding through mature timber. The grade eases as the trail brushes up along a grassy wetland. At 1.6 miles, come to a junction with the Turtlehead Trail and the Waldron Overlook Spur. Check out the overlook first by hiking a short distance to a cliff top promontory with a stunning view of Waldron Island’s impressive Disney Cliffs across President Channel. Keep children and dogs close by as it’s a sheer drop behind the split rail fence.

When done viewing, return to the junction and continue hiking on the Turtlehead Trail.  Opened in 2013 and built by a consortium of folks including the Washington Trails Association, Washington Conservation Corps and the Orcas Island Youth Conservation Corp; it traverses land acquired to expand the preserve to the Turtlehead (also known as Orcas Knob) with its stunning views.

Follow the well-built trail through a cedar grove gently descending to a gap. Then regain lost elevation winding around ledge and traversing attractive forest emerging on the grassy, rocky 1005-ft bald. The views from this prominent landmark are simply sublime. Stare out at San Juan, Shaw, Jones, Spieden and Stuart islands; and BC’s Salt Spring, Moresby, Sidney and Vancouver Islands too.  Savor this Salish Sea splendor!


For detailed information on this hike and 99 other outstanding hikes in the state, pick up a copy of my

100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books).


For detailed information on this hike and 135 others in the San Juan and Gulf Islands, pick up a copy of my Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands—the most comprehensive hiking guide to these islands.

Book also  contains chapters on Anacortes and Victoria, BC, too. Get your copy today!