Location: Mill Creek
Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks
Roundtrip: 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
Access: From I-5 Exit 183 follow 164th Street SE east to SR 527. Turn south and follow SR 527 to 183rd Street SE. Turn right (west) and proceed for a 0.5 mile to park entrance on right. Alternatively take Exit 26 on I-405 and follow SR 527 north to 183rd Street SE.
Note: Dogs must be leashed.
Map: Online. Ignore the one at the park showing a loop.
Contact: Snohomish County Parks
Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, bird watching, snow-free winter hike
Situated in southern Snohomish County surrounded by a sea of urban development, North Creek Park is an island of natural beauty. But this sprawling wetland offers more than just a place for nearby city folk to get a taste of nature. This 85-acre park protects ecologically important wildlife habitat and helps provide flood control by acting as a giant sponge. Nearly this entire park’s area consists of bog. But have no worries hiking through this saturated landscape, for an extensive boardwalk system allows you easy and dry access into this semi-submerged preserve.
Before hitting the trail, be sure to check out the information kiosk to get a better understanding of the terrain you are about to step foot on. Much of this area was once farmland and North Creek Park was part of the John Bailey Farm. Some of the farm’s structures still stand. Okay, time to explore. The trail immediately leaves terra firma for a 0.75-mile long boardwalk. Comprised of more than 150 fitting sections, this floating trail was extensively rebuilt not too long ago.
Follow the floating boardwalk snaking across the expansive wetland meadow. Interpretive signs along the way provide insight into this special environment. Scrappy willows and a few lone hawthorns punctuate the grasses and reeds. Birdlife is prolific, especially in the spring. Red-winged blackbirds and winter wrens fill the air with their melodious calls. As spring advances, sparrows, warblers, and vireos add their songs. Hawks are copious and you will frequently sight them hovering over the grasses searching for prey.
Herons are especially fond of the North Creek Meadows. A rookery exists in the park’s northwest corner. In 0.3 mile a spur trail heads left 500-feet cutting through cattails and spirea to a peat bog. The main trail continues north through the wetlands complex. In another 0.25 mile another spur trail takes off left; this one leading 500 feet to a lookout close to the main creek channel. Look for beavers and muskrats swimming here in an open channel.
The main trail travels another 0.2 mile north to once again reach dry ground. A couple of hundred feet farther it terminates. Retrace your steps and enjoy the scene all over again looking once more for creatures in the bog. This grassy swale of shallow water teems with life. And back at the trailhead, consider walking the short loop through the picnic area. Here you’ll be impressed with some large Sitka spruce trees.
For information on lodging and other attractions near North Creek, visit www.snohomish.org.
For lots of other snow-free winter hiking options, pick up a copy of my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck (Mountaineers Books).