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!

Fortson Ponds –An old mill site on an emerging long distance trail

DSC00723

Cottonwoods and Mount Higgins reflect in the Fortson Mill Pond.

Quick Facts:

Location: Darrington

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.0 miles

Elevation gain: none

Difficulty: Easy

Contact: Snohomish County Parks 

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Notes: Dogs allowed on leash

Access: From Exit 208 on I-5 (Arlington) travel east on SR 530 for 25.2 miles turning left onto Fortson Mill Road (near Milepost 42). Continue 0.2 mile to large parking lot and trailhead.

Good to know: snow free winter hiking; historic; dog-friendly; kid-friendly; open to mountain bikes

Once the site of a bustling mill and community of over 300 residents, all that remains now of Fortson are some concrete walls and two pretty mill ponds. While the concrete walls of the old mill are marred in graffiti and not exactly pleasing to the eye—the mill’s ponds are quite the contrary.  Lined with stately cottonwoods, the two ponds reflect these tall trees as well as the rugged mountains surrounding them. And the two ponds are important habitat for local fisheries.

DSC00739

Whitehorse Mountain

After years of neglect, this historic site was purchased by Washington Fish and Wildlife and Snohomish County Parks now manages a new trailhead here for the adjacent Whitehorse Trail. Work crews have been busy working on opening a new section of this 27 mile long trail-in-the-works that will eventually connect with the Centennial Trail in Arlington. With this section opened at Fortson Mill, the easternmost seven miles of this trail are now available for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and trail running.

From the trailhead, walk north on a wide path just to the left of the old mill ruins. Soon come to the Whitehorse Trail. Now walk right crossing a creek on a bridge. Soon afterward come to short fishermen paths leading left to the Stillaguamish River—and shortly after that a path leading right to one of the two mill ponds. This one once housed the mill’s de-barker and now serves as a spawning ground for coho and chum salmon. Both of the ponds account for 5 to 8% of the total coho smolt production in the Stillaguamish drainage. Look for them—and look for eagles, kingfishers and herons at the ponds too.

Walk along the pond and come to a junction. The trail left leads back to the Whitehorse Trail. The trail right crosses a creek on a bridge and then circles around the first mill pond leading back to the mill ruins and trailhead in about 0.5 mile. Definitely walk it and enjoy the reflections of Mount Higgins in the pond’s waters.

DSC00781

Wetlands and Whitehorse Mountain along the Whitehorse Trail.

Then return to the Whitehorse Trail and continue walking it east soon traversing a large marshy area near the second mill pond. The view here across pools of water and batches of bulrushes to glacier-capped Whitehorse Mountain is quite impressive. While this area is now in a fairly natural state, try to envision it as it was a century ago. At that time a major sawmill stood here as well as a town with more than 100 people. By the 1920s more than 300 people called Fortson home. But by the 1950s the mill was moved to Darrington and nature began reclaiming this area.

Continue hiking the Whitehorse Trail reaching 379th Ave NE in about 0.8 mile. Consider walking left here to the Whitehorse Fish Hatchery. You can walk around the rearing ponds and admire some great mountain scenery too. Then either retrace your steps one mile back to the trailhead—or consider walking on the Whitehorse Trail east some more soon passing great views of Round Mountain, Mount Higgins and Segelsen Ridge. Reach Swede Heaven Road in 0.6 mile. From here the trail continues another 5.5 miles to Darrington. There are a couple of nice sections along the Stillaguamish River as well as a bridged crossing of Squire Creek. Arrange for a shuttle in Darrington and walk the trail one way from Fortson.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Fortson Ponds visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For information on many nearby snow free hiking destinations, consult my new Urban Trails Bellingham (Mountaineers Book). Urban Trails Everett will be released later this year!

River Meadows Park─Wander along the Stillaguamish River

Quick Facts:

Location: South Fork Stillaguamish River, near Arlington

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Notes: Dogs must be leashed.

Access: From Exit 208 on I-5 head east on SR 530 to Arlington. One mile beyond junction with SR 9 (just after crossing the South Fork Stillaguamish River) turn right at light onto Arlington Heights Road. Proceed 1.0 mile turning right onto Jordan Road. Continue for 3.0 more miles to park entrance. Turn right and follow park road to large parking area near picnic and camping area by the river.

Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow-free winter hiking, camping

DSCN0026

A rare blanket of light snow adds an extra layer of beauty to the river.

One of Snohomish County Parks’ loveliest properties, River Meadows Park offers delightful year round hiking and camping. With more than 6.0 miles of trails traversing woodlots and fallow fields, you can easily spend an entire day wandering through this 150-acre former homestead and farm. And you can easily spend the night here too—and in relative comfort thanks to the park’s  Yurt Village. Developed in 2009 in an old orchard on a terrace above the Great Meadow, head right out on the park’s charming trail system from one of six yurts. These sturdy structures will provide you with a warm and dry retreat before and after your hike.

Now, don’t let a brisk late fall or winter day keep you away from the trails. Winter is one of the best times to explore this park with low visitation. Often in summer the park’s fields are abuzz with children playing, while the park’s riverfront is lined with anglers and waders. The trails however rarely get crowded and in winter they offer plenty of quiet roaming.

For a good round trip hike through the park touching upon many of its attractions, try this 2.5 mile route beginning north along the river from the picnic-camping area. Occupying a large bend on the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River, the park offers over one mile of river frontage. And while it’s been decades since the surrounding meadows have been tilled or grazed, abundant evidence of the park’s agrarian past lie scattered throughout the property. These vestiges of simpler times add to the charm of this pastoral park.

DSCN1540

Salmon are the focus of the annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River.

Under lofty cedars and cottonwoods the trail rounds the river bend near a big gravel bar. Marvel at the towering bluffs across the bend. Scan tree tops for eagles. Watch the swiftly moving river for mergansers riding the rapids and kingfishers darting the current.

Now through a belt of towering trees separating the river from the Great Meadow, continue following the wide trail coming to a junction. Left continues downstream to Jordan Creek. Head right to traverse the Great Meadow where side trails branch left to the Yurt Village and ranger station. Cross the park access road and follow an old road-turned trail through the park’s Upland Woods. Then descend a small bluff arriving in the Terrace Meadow back along the South Fork Stillaguamish.From here follow the river once again downstream. Beneath big cedars and along the pretty Funnel Meadow soon return to the day-use area.

Consider a return to the park in spring and plan on coming back in August too for the annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River.

For information on lodging and other attractions near River Meadows, visit www.snohomish.org.

For more information on snow free hiking destinations in Western Washington, pick up a copy of my Winter Hikes of Western Washington Card DeckWinter Hikes Card Deck

Beaver Lake — Trail holds a “slough” of surprises

DSC00128

The way travels across Beaver Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 3.8 miles

Elevation gain: 100 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required

Access: From Darrington, follow Mountain Loop Highway for 9.0 miles to trailhead (located on right just after crossing Sauk River).

 

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow free winter hiking; wildlife watching, historic

This is an easy near-level family-friendly trail along the Wild and Scenic Sauk River to a series of beaver ponds in an old slough. The way follows an old logging railroad grade still harboring old ties and trestle remains. En route you’ll pass through a grove of ancient cedars left by the early loggers. The Beaver Lake Trail is a birdwatchers delight too, providing ample opportunities to scan the river and surrounding wetlands for eagles, dippers, mergansers and kingfishers.

Start on a bluff above the confluence of the Sauk and White Chuck Rivers. The way dips slightly from the parking lot onto the old logging railway grade. Rotting trestles can be seen just to the right. On a near straight-away the trail cuts through a thick stand of second growth hemlocks and a tunnel of alders. You’ll pass a spur leading right to a river gauging station. Feel free to check it out if you’d like. Then continue down the trail soon swinging left onto a high bank. Here enjoy a good view out to Mount Pugh and the Monte Cristo Peaks while the Sauk River churns and roars below.

The mighty river continuously pounds the gravel-layered riverbank causing portions of the shoreline hugging trail to slump. Storms in 2006 took out sections of the trail here, but volunteer work crews from the Washington Trails Association repaired the damaged tread. Pick up the old rail grade again and then follow a new reroute around a muddy section and old puncheon.  After passing through patches of skunk-cabbage (return in spring for a pungent hike) come to a delightful bridge crossing Beaver Lake.  Okay, it’s more of a pond than a lake—an old slough actually. Check out the bridge more carefully inspecting its span built upon some of the original railroad trestles. Pause to look and listen for bird activity. And of course look for signs of beaver—a dam, a hut, perhaps even one of these industrious rodents?

DSC00136

Mount Forgotten across the Sauk River.

Beyond Beaver Lake, the trail traverses an impressive old-growth cedar grove. The trees are remarkable in size and girth, but also in the fact that they were spared the axe. The trail continues for a short way beyond terminating at an impassible washout along the Sauk River. Pause and look out across the river to Mount Forgotten. When the sun is out, this is a nice spot to sit on a log and soak up some warmth and scenery. Otherwise, start retracing your steps back to your start.

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

 

For more detailed information on this hike and 124 others throughout the region, pick up a copy of my detailed and best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades.

For a great cup of coffee and snack after your hike,

visit the Mountain Loop Books and Coffee in Darrington.

Pilchuck Tree Farm─Quiet wood roads from Meadows to Ridge

Follow a quiet woods road across a broad meadow.

Follow a quiet woods road across a broad meadow.

Quick Facts:

Location: Northern Snohomish County, near Stanwood

Land Agency: Pacific Denkmann Company Pilchuck Tree Farm

Roundtrip: 3.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Contact: Pilchuck Recreation Association: www.pilchuckra.org

Notes: All trail users MUST sign a liability release and have it on file to use these trails. Download here and mail (with $2 donation) to Pilchuck Recreation Association. Dogs must be leashed; this is private land — all rules strictly enforced.

Access: From Everett, head north on I-5 to Exit 215; then head east on 300th Street NE for 1.0 mile. Turn left onto English Grade Road and continue for 1.2 miles turning right onto 316th Street. After .8 mile turn left onto gravel 12th Ave and reach trailhead in .4 mile. Do not block horse unloading areas.

Straddling the Skagit-Snohomish County line between I-5 and SR 9 is a wild wooded expanse long known by area equestrians and mountain bikers. But you won’t find this land on maps, or in guidebooks. It’s part of the Pilchuck Tree Farm; a privately owned working forest managed by the Pacific Denkmann Company.

The owners have graciously allowed public access on their lands, but all who visit must adhere to their rules lest public access be revoked. Among the posted rules (and listed on the Pilchuck Recreation Association website) is that all dogs must be leashed, and many of the trails to protect from erosion are closed from November 1st to April 30th. Then why is this hike being suggested for December? Because the forest’s well-maintained woods roads are open all year for hiking and they make for wonderful winter wandering.

This loop encompasses the Pilchuck Meadow and part of the high ridge that traverses the property making for a great introductory hike of the Pilchuck Tree Farm. Start by hiking north on the gated road towards the Pilchuck Glass School, a facility started in 1971 by renowned glass artists, Dale Chihuly, Anne Gould Hauberg, and John H. Hauberg.

Follow this road north climbing beneath of canopy of mature cedars. Pass by an old berry patch, now replaced with solid conifers. At .4 mile, come to a junction. Take the road right traversing across a beautiful meadow. Enjoy views south of Mount Pilchuck, Mount Rainier, and other prominent peaks.

At meadow’s edge come to another junction. You’ll be returning on the left, so continue straight into beautiful second growth forest. After about a mile pass a nice wetland pool which comes alive come springtime.

At 1.2 miles, come to a five-way junction. Turn left and steely climb following a road along a ridge crest. Window views can be had of rolling peaks east. At 1.6 miles, turn left onto an old skid road, passing an old cut and eventually coming back to the lovely meadow you traversed earlier. Then turn left walking along meadow’s edge returning to a familiar junction. Head right to return to your vehicle. How was your introduction to this lovely working forest?

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Pilchuck Tree Farm,

visit www.snohomish.org

For more information on nearby great winter hiking destinations, consult my brand new Urban Trails Bellingham book