Location: Lowell neighborhood, city of Everett
Land Agency: Everett Parks and Recreation
Roundtrip: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: None
Access: From Exit 192 on I-5 in Everett head east on 41st Street. Turn right (south) onto 3rd Ave and proceed for 1.2 miles to four-way stop. Turn left onto Lowell River Road, cross railroad tracks and in .2 mile come to Lowell Riverfront Trail Park located on your left. (Additional parking is available at Rotary Park 0.25 mile farther east).
Notes: Dogs must be on leash; trail is wheelchair accessible.
The town of Lowell was long ago absorbed into Snohomish County’s largest city, Everett. Founded in 1871 on a big bend on the Snohomish River, Lowell was named after a planned mill city in Massachusetts synonymous with industrialization. And while Snohomish County’s entire population at the time was less than 1,000, entrepreneurs and industrialists in Washington Territory had big plans for the region. The area’s big timber and navigable river made it a choice spot for a saw mill. Eventually, Lowell would sport a large pulp and paper mill.
The mill like many others within the Pacific Northwest succumbed to changing market influences and was shut down. By the 1980s all that was left of the mill site was industrial waste. The local Rotarians saw in the old mill site an opportunity to resurrect a landscape and turn it into a beautiful riverfront park. They donated much money and labor cleaning out the area so that it would be suitable to become a park. Money was secured by the city to build a paved 1.5 mile trail along the river through the former industrial site; and volunteers continue to clean up the area replacing invasive species with native ones.
From the trailhead walk 0.25 mile upriver beneath towering cottonwoods to Rotary Park. A popular spot for launching boats into the river, it is hard imagine now the industrial activity that once flourished here. Now retrace your steps and head downriver toward the old pulp mill site.
The paved path hugs the Snohomish River at the Lowell Bend heading along grassy lawns punctuated with birch groves and columns of stately cottonwoods. Openings along the riverbank reveal weathered barns and productive farms on Ebey Island in the Snohomish Delta. And on clear days gaze a out across the river to a backdrop of snowy craggy Cascade Peaks; Mount Pilchuck, Three Fingers and Baker among them.
The trail eventually bends left to where the old mill once stood. A new housing development now occupies this former blighted site and new landscaping and railings grace the trail here. The trail comes to Riverfront Boulevard. Here you can turn right and pick up a brand new section of trail. Follow this half mile paved path across wetlands and along the river to another new housing development on Riverfront Boulevard. Then retrace your steps.
For a diversion on your return, amble along retention ponds established in the late 90s as part of the I-5 widening project. Soft surface trails snake through naturally landscaped grounds housing reflecting pools. Head on over to a pedestrian-only bridge connecting the wetland restoration area and Riverfront Trail to the Lowell business district. The bridge is an architectural marvel with its own waterfall. The steps will give you an added workout. And the entire area doesn’t look too bad now considering its industrial past!
For information on lodging and other attractions near Lowell Riverfront Trail visit www.snohomish.org.For more great snow free winter hikes, consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck (Mountaineers Books)