Cranberry Lake Trail—A sweet little hike on Camano Island

The trail to Cranberry Lake meanders through a quiet grove of alders.

The trail to Cranberry Lake meanders through a quiet grove of alders.

Quick Facts:

Location: Camano Island

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 125 feet

Contact: Cama Beach State Park

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs must be leashed

Access: From Exit 212 on I-5, travel west on SR 532 to Camano Island to a junction at 10.0 miles. Bear left onto NE Camano Drive and proceed for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto S Camano Hill Road continuing for 3.4 miles to a junction with SW Camano Drive. Turn left reaching Cama Beach State Park entrance in 2.8 miles. Turn right reaching trailhead in .3 mile.

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

One of Washington’s newer state parks, 433-acre Cama Beach has become one of the state’s more popular parks. And it’s easy to see why! This park is a unique gem preserving a charming restored 1930s beachside cabin resort. But there’s more—over a mile of Puget Sound shoreline and several miles of hiking trails including connections to nearby Camano Island State Park and Camano Island Conservation lands. Cranberry Lake, located within Cama Beach State Park is a nice quiet easy hike and perfect IMG_4997for kids and hiking newbies–and for burning calories after a Thanksgiving feast!

From the drop-off shelter at the south end of the park’s parking area; take the trail left heading away from the shore. Now, following an old resort access road travel under a canopy of mature firs and maples. In .3 mile reach a trail junction and road crossing. The trail right is part of the Cross Island Trail. It leads 1.0 mile to Camano Island State Park where several more miles of trails can be accessed. Continue straight carefully crossing the road and come to another junction. The trail left, a continuation of the Cross Island Trail heads 1.2 miles through quiet woodlands to Ivy Lane.

You’ll want to veer right on good trail through alders and snowberry bushes gently climbing a small ridge. At 1.1 miles reach little Cranberry Lake, a shallow wetland surrounded by bulrushes , spirea and huckleberry bushes. Nothing particularly exceptional—but  a nice walk in the woods in a gorgeous park. Hang around for a little while and perhaps you’ll be graced with a deer or other wildlife sighting. And if you want to burn more calories, do explore the other trails in the park!

Cranberry Lake is one of the destinations featured in my  

Winter Hikes of Western Washington Card Deck

Get your copy today!

Get your copy today!

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

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!

Arlington Airport Trail–Come Fly with Me on a walk around an historic airport

Quick Facts:

Members of the Arlington Running Club frequently train on the Airport Trail.

Members of the Arlington Running Club
training on the Airport Trail.

Location: Arlington

Land Agency: City of Arlington

Roundtrip: 5.5 miles

Elevation gain: 50 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Contact: Arlington Airport Commission

Notes: Dogs must be on leash

Access:  From Everett, head north on I-5 to Exit 206. Continue east on SR 531 (172nd Street NE) for 1.4 miles. Turn left onto 59th Avenue NE and proceed for one mile to airport parking near Bill Quake Memorial Park. Trail can also be accessed from Airport Boulevard and 188th Street NE.

Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, historic, interpretive

The Arlington Airport Trail isn’t exactly a walk in the woods, but it’s no city walk either. This mostly soft surface trail offers a IMG_9656nice place to get a long hike or run in close to the thriving northern Snohomish County communities of Arlington and Marysville. The trail is nearly level, perfect for kids, and dog-friendly too. There are some nice wooded sections, some fields, and if you’re into aviation history (something Snohomish County is noted for)—you’ll be flying high here! There are nine interpretive signs along the trail to enlighten you about this little municipal airport’s interesting past.

The airport was built in 1934 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and was used primarily by private fliers, aerial circuses and the Forest Service for transporting supplies to fight fires. In 1940 the US Navy leased the airport as an auxiliary air station. The runways were expanded to accommodate bombers during the outbreak of World War II. At one time personnel at the airport included over 700 officers and over 2,200 enlisted men. A third runway was constructed in 1945 along with several magazines.

DSCN1806After the war, the airport was used primarily as an emergency landing field for NAS Whidbey. By 1959 it was no longer used by the military and became municipal property. It was a popular spot for drag racing during the 1950s and 60s. But the activity was soon banned as the airport became a busier place for private and cargo planes. Plan on taking some time along the way at the interpretive signs; they contain lots of great old photos.

The trail pretty much heads around the periphery of the airport making a 5.5 mile loop. It’s a great urban hike or excellent running course. It parallels a couple of busy roads but also traverses some quiet groves of mature timber. It also consists a paved section Airport Boulevard. It’s nearly level with a few little dips around the northern limits of the airport. And because you are hiking through a large open area, there are some expansive views of the wooded foothills north and peaks south including Mount Rainier. Of course, various aircraft will more than likely be taking off and landing while you are out hiking.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Arlington Airport Trail visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more information on other nearby urban hikes, including the great trails at the Skagit Airport, pick up a copy of my brand new Urban Trails Bellingham (Mountaineers Books)!UrbanTrails_Bellingham_WEB

Riverview Wildlife Refuge –Quiet bird sanctuary on the Snohomish River

The trail follows the Snohomish River passing beneath the SR 9 bridge.

The trail follows the Snohomish River passing beneath the SR 9 bridge.

Quick Facts

Location: City of Snohomish

Land Agency: Snohomish Department of Parks and Volunteer Programs

Roundtrip: 2.2 miles

Elevation gain: minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Contact: City of Snohomish and Pilchuck Audubon Society

Notes: Dogs must be on leash (and may not be allowed in the near future).
Access:  From Everett head east on US 2 to SR 9. Then follow SR 9 south exiting onto 2nd Street. Turn left and head east 0.1 mile bearing right onto 1st Street. After another 0.1 mile, park on right aside a paved trail.

Good to know: kid-friendly, bird watching, snow-free winter hiking



Big cottonwoods grow along the Snohomish River.

The small city of Snohomish sits on the banks of the Snohomish River surrounded by a lush floodplain. Years ago the city developed a short paved path along the river near its historic downtown core. It’s a beautiful walk and has become quite popular with residents and visitors alike. But the trail is short and the city is surrounded by miles of undeveloped riverfront prompting community visionaries to look into expanding the trail system. And a few years ago the expansion began with the opening of the Riverview Wildlife Refuge.

Much of the refuge sits to the west of the city’s water treatment plant occupying lands formerly used as treatment lagoons. Today this area is a grassy marsh surrounded by towering cottonwoods. Bird life and small mammals are abundant in the refuge. The area is accessed by a trail from 1st street to a path along a river dike. The refuge is being jointly managed by the city and the Pilchuck Audubon Society. They have recently released a master plan for the property calling for new trails and improvements. But there is no need to wait for the future as the area currently offers nice walking opportunities.

Starting from the parking area follow the paved path west toward a city waterworks building adorned with metal swimming salmon. Then head left on a gravel path passing by a small wetland sporting a cottonwood grove. The way then soon comes to the riverbank. Now continue west passing under the 1959-built SR 9 bridge. At .4 mile come to the water treatment lagoons. Stop and peer through fencing to the pools where a wide array of waterfowl can usually be sighted.


Late afternoon sunlight filtered by puffy clouds.

Then continue walking along the dike soon reaching the refuge. Stay on the elevated walkway and do not venture into the marsh as bio solids have accumulated over the years into the marsh. Continue walking along the marshy wetland watching for birds and small critters. Some large cottonwoods provide shade along the way. There is some good viewing too of the river and the farms and hills beyond. Cross over an old stone spillway and come to a junction at .9 mile. You can make a small loop here or continue on a dike another .2 mile east coming to a gate at the water treatment plant. This section of trail not only offers more views of the marsh, but also of the wildlife-rich Cemetery Creek wetlands to the north. Return the way you came and do come back in the future as the area is improved. Plans for the refuge not only include new trails and bridges, but also elevated mounds that will offer excellent birdwatching vantages.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Riverview Wildlife Sanctuary visit


For more information on other snow free winter and spring hikes nearby, consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington deck. 

Get your copy today!

Get your copy today!

Big Ditch─Dig in for some excellent swan and snow geese viewing

A hiker searches the flats for snow geese and snowy owls.

A hiker searches the flats for snow geese and snowy owls.

Quick Facts

Location: Skagit Bay, Stanwood

Land Agency: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Roundtrip: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: None

Access: From Exit 212 on I-5 head west on SR 532 for five miles to the town of Stanwood. Turn right onto the Pioneer Highway and proceed for 2.6 miles to the junction with the Old Pacific Highway. Turn left crossing railroad tracks and immediately come to a junction with a gravel road veering right. Follow the heavily-pot-holed road for 0.6 mile to large parking area and trailhead.

Notes: Discover Pass required; dogs must be leashed; area is open to hunting from October through January.

Contact: Skagit Wildlife Area

Hike along an old channel built decades ago to keep reclaimed croplands on the Skagit River Delta from being inundated by 032tidewaters. Forming a demarcation line between productive farmlands and wildlife-rich tidal flats, the Big Ditch is “entrenched” with scenic beauty and birdlife. The Big Ditch lies within the 13,000-acre Skagit Bay Estuary Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area and is open to the public. It is one of the best places in Snohomish and Skagit Counties for bird watching. Its level terrain makes it kid-friendly and inviting to hikers of all abilities. Unfortunately maintenance has been lacking and the way may be a little overgrown in spots–so wear adequate clothing,

Start your hike off by setting out north on a dike separating tilled flats from tide flats. The expansive saturated mudflats to your left and north are protected within the Skagit Wildlife Area. During the winter months, thousands of snow geese and trumpeter and tundra swans seek refuge here. Their white downy bodies resemble patches of snow against the stark winter landscape of brown reeds and grasses. Snowy owls frequently winter here too.

Continue hiking north along the elevated walkway admiring a landscape that could be right out of the Deep South. In one mile pass a row of shanty hunting cabins perched on pilings along a river channel that appear to be straight out of a Louisiana bayou. But lift your eyes upwards to snowy Mount Baker hovering in the distance above the flats to confirm that this is indeed the Pacific Northwest.

The trail continues beyond the hunter hovels to hug the South Fork of the Skagit. About 1.8 miles from the trailhead reach the Snohomish-Skagit County Line and the turning around point for this hike. Beyond, the dike is privately owned and not open to public use. Retrace your steps back to the parking area. Don’t forget to have your binoculars and a good field guide at hand. However, you shouldn’t have any difficulties identifying the swans and geese gathering on the surrounding grounds.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Big Ditch visit more information on other great hikes within the  Skagit Valley, including at nearby Fir Island, consult my soon to be released Urban Trails Bellingham   (Mountaineers Books). You can preorder a copy right now for a great discount!