Ashland Lakes─old growth forest serenity

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 5.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway no. 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest 

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east to the Verlot Visitors Center. Proceed for 4.6 more miles turning right onto FR 4020. Follow this rough gravel road for 2.7 miles bearing right onto FR 4021. Continue 1.4 bumpy miles, turning left onto Spur 016 reaching the trailhead in 0.2 mile. High clearance vehicles recommended.

Notes: Discover Pass required.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, backpacking possibilities, solitude; exceptional old-growth

With the extremely popular Lake 22 and Heather Lake nearby, the forested Ashland Lakes are oft overlooked by area hikers. While not as dramatic as Heather and 22, the Ashland Lakes are not nearly as crowded, offering a much more serene and wild destination. And the Ashlands often are snow free earlier in the spring and later in the fall offering a good hiking choice when nearby lakes are buried in white.

Set in a primeval forest within the shadows of Mount Pilchuck, the Ashland Lakes are part of a 9,600-acre Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) administered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Due to thier location within a major convergence zone, the Morning Star NRCA is among the wettest regions in the Cascades, receiving between 100 and 180 inches of annual precipitation. Consequently, because of heavy snowfall, the area supports an abundance of plants and ecological zones more common to surrounding areas at higher elevations.

Start by hiking along on an old logging road. Traverse bog and former ancient forest and after about a half mile, cross a tannic creek on a sturdy bridge. At about 1.2 miles, leave the old road for real trail and enter old forest. Now utilizing boardwalks, and sturdy puncheon, the trail winds through a saturated forest floor.  After gently ascending a low ridge take some time to admire the surrounding old growth giants.

At 1.6 miles reach a junction. The trail left heads .1 mile to little Beaver Plant Lake, a wetland of sphagnum and peat bog. While appreciating this intricate ecosystem, contemplate what a Beaver Plant may be (a factory that builds rodents or a tree that blossoms them?). Walk out on the boardwalk leading to the lake’s marshy shoreline. Nice campsites can be found here if you’re inclined to spend the night.

A quarter mile beyond the Beaver Plant spur, crest a 3,000-foot divide and reach another junction. The unmaintained and difficult to follow trail left heads to Bald Mountain. Head right instead for a gentle .25 mile to Upper Ashland Lake. The trail hugs the lake’s shore on sturdy boardwalks. A couple of tent platforms along the way make nice sunny napping and lunch spots.The trail continues passing more campsites near the lake’s outlet. Continue on it to the Lower Lake, losing 200 feet of elevation in .5 mile.  Flanked by cliffs and talus, the lower lake sits in a more rugged setting than the upper lake. There are some great campsites here, too. Be sure to cross the lake’s outlet to a beautiful spot right on the lake.

Intrepid hikers can follow the rough in spot trail to the dramatic Twin Falls. This trail drops 500 feet in 1.4 miles ending between the two falls. It’s a rather dramatic location.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Ashland Lakes, visit


For more detailed information on this and many other hikes along the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books).0486

Lake Evan and Boardman Lake–Enjoy an easy hike to two family friendly lakes


Early season at Boardman Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 2.0 miles

Elevation gain: 300 feet

Difficulty: easy (with some rough footing)

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Access: From Granite Falls, follow the Mountain Loop Highway east to the Verlot Visitors Center. Continue for 4.7 more miles, turning right onto graveled FR 4020. Proceed for 4.9 miles to trailhead.

Notes: NW Forest or Interagency Pass required

Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly



Lake Evan

Scattered beneath a series of rugged cirques and cliffs on the north face of Bald Mountain are a handful of delightful backcountry lakes. Ranging in size and scenic splendor, several remain tucked away far from trails and roads making them destinations for intrepid travelers only. Others however lie merely a mile or two away by trail. And still others, like Lake Evan are only a mere sprint from the trailhead.

While it’ll take most hikers a mere thirty minutes to reach both lakes, allow yourself a good half-day to fully enjoy and appreciate this area. Boardman is an ideal place for introducing children to the wonders of nature. Its shimmering waters invite lounging, feet-soaking, and during the dog days of summer, perhaps even a quick dip.

The trail itself will captivate young minds. Gargantuan ancient cedars lining the way will keep heads cocked upward in a constant state of bewilderment. But be sure to watch the trail! While generally well-groomed, a few roots and rocks may stagger your pace.


Boardman Lake from its outlet

Start your hike in a grove of gargantuan cedars. Then, within mere minutes reach little Lake Evan. Children may be inclined to want to loiter along the forested and marshy shore, but Boardman promises much better diversions. Continue hiking under a canopy centuries old. After making one small climb around an area of ledge, arrive at the attractive basin housing Boardman Lake. Surrounded by timbered and rocky knolls, brushy talus slopes, and ancient forest; despite being a mere mile from a road, Boardman feels like it’s deep within the wilderness.

Cross the outlet creek on a log jam and head for shoreline sunning and fishing spots. A handful of tidy campsites perfect for neophyte backpackers occupy a forested bench on the lake’s eastern shore. Primitive paths hug the eastern and northern lakeshore but peter-out in brushy and marshy terrain. There are more lakes beyond, but you must be tenacious and experienced at off trail travel to reach them.  Instead, enjoy Boardman. It’s large enough to accommodate all of its guests.

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

 For more detailed information on this hike and many others great hikes along the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades (Mountaineers Books); which consists of 125 hikes in all!0486


Lower Big Quilcene River─Lowland hike teems with primeval beauty

Quick Facts:

Location: Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal District

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: To Camp Jolly 10.2 miles

Green Trails Map: Olympic Mountains East 168SX

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Contact: Hood Canal District, Quilcene

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, open to mountain bikes, backpacking opportunities, old-growth, exceptional rhodies, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Access: From Quilcene drive US 101 south for 1.5 miles turning right onto Penny Creek Road. After 1.5 miles bear left onto FR 27. Continue for 3 miles to a junction. Bear right and after .4 mile turn left onto FR 27-080. Follow this narrow road .4 mile to trailhead.

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.


The Big Quilcene Trail to Marmot Pass is one of the most popular trails in the Olympics. Many hikers don’t realize though, it was once twice as long. The road to the trailhead severed it in two. The eastern six miles still exist as the Lower Big Quilcene Trail. And although not in the adjacent Buckhorn Wilderness, this trail is still quite wild in places. A good part of it runs through a rugged canyon cloaked in primeval forest. And while past logging has eaten away at the periphery, there are still plenty of ancient groves along the way.

The trail climbs a mere 800 feet in its 5.0 mile journey to Camp Jolly. Besides making for an easy trek, its low elevation is ideal for a spring hike. In May and June, you’ll be rewarded with blooming rhododendrons, Washington’s showy state flower. The trail passes by old camps and shelters—testaments to when there was no shorter route to Marmot Pass. A good day hike objective is Camp Jolly, just more than five miles out. But hikers not intent on putting in that many miles can cut their hike in half opting for Bark Shanty Camp.

The trail starts high above the river on an old road bed. After a slight descent in the first mile it enters a steep-walled canyon. After another mile the trail finally meets up with the roaring river, crossing it on a good bridge. Now along the rushing waterway and through beautiful groves of old-growth forest reach Bark Shanty Camp in 2.6 miles. Snack, rest, turn around or carry on!

The trail continues farther up valley. Just beyond a sturdy bridge is the western terminus of the Notch Pass Trail. Continue through a series of old clearcuts before reentering primeval forest once more. At 5.1 miles arrive at Camp Jolly. Take a break by bubbly Jolly Creek before happily making your way back to the trailhead. Note that the trail continues for 1.4 more miles terminating at FR 2750. If you can arrange a shuttle, it makes a good one way hike.

For more detailed information on this trail and 135 others throughout the Olympic Peninsula, pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd edition. This detailed up-to-date book is the most trusted trail source and best selling hiking guidebook to the Olympic Peninsula. Get your copy today! 



(REGULARLY $18.95)

Langus Waterfront Trail─A slough of surprises await just minutes from downtown Everett

Enjoy continuous river and slough views on this trail.

Enjoy continuous river and slough views on this trail.

Quick Facts

Location: City of Everett

Land Agency: Everett Parks and Recreation Department

Roundtrip: 4.0 miles

Elevation Gain: None

Access: From Everett, take Exit 195 off of I-5 turning left onto East Grand Ave. In 0.5 mile bear right onto East Marine View Drive and follow for 1.0 mile to SR 529. Continue north on SR 529 crossing the Snohomish River onto Smith Island. After a half mile turn right onto 35th Ave NE and proceed south for a half mile turning left onto Smith Island Road. Follow Smith Island Road south for 1.5 miles to Langus Riverfront Park.

Notes: Dogs must be on leash.

Contact: City of Everett Parks and Recreation Department

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike, exceptional birdwatching, wheelchair and jogging stroller friendly

A delightful paved path along the Snohomish River in the heart of its delta, the Langus Waterfront Trail on Smith Island can be enjoyed by hikers and runners of all walks of life including those in wheelchairs. Starting from the city of Everett’s Langus Riverfront Park head south across manicured lawns beside the river. Here near the river’s mouth, it channels into an elaborate delta of sloughs and ecologically important wetlands. Smith Island sits right in the middle of this estuarine complex, an area where salt and fresh waters mix.

While parts of the delta succumbed to past industrial and agricultural uses, much of it has recently been restored to a more natural environment. Managed cooperatively by the Everett Parks Department, Snohomish County Parks Department, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Snohomish River Delta now provides excellent wildlife watching opportunities as well as excellent hiking and paddling; and all just mere minutes from downtown Everett. This is one of the best spots in the county for observing birds.

Follow the trail upriver and when skies are clear take in splendid views south of Mount Rainier rising above the floodplain. After passing a water treatment plant the trail traverses wilder surroundings. Reaching the southern tip of the island the trail turns northward following along Union Slough. Resembling a southern bottomland, large Sitka spruces growing here remind you that you’re still in the Northwest. So too on sunny days when yu can see Mount Rainier hovering in the distance. Look for eagles, herons, ducks, and cormorants among the reeds, snags, pools, and currents.

In 2.0 miles the paved trail comes to the old Jackknife Bridge to Spencer Island. You can turn around and head back; or head back to your vehicle via dirt 4th Street for a shortcut; or continue hiking on Spencer Island’s trails. In any case many returns are warranted here as each season brings changes and surprises to the river and its delta.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Langus Waterfront Trail visit

Coming Soon!

Urban Trails: Everett

Your guide to hiking and running trails throughout Western Snohomish County, Camano Island, and Whidbey Island

Pre-order your copy Now!

River View Quarry Trail─Trail along the Snohomish River is a cut above

The trail meanders around the grassy slopes of a reclaimed quarry.

The trail meanders around the grassy slopes of a reclaimed quarry.

Quick Facts:

Location: Lord Hill Regional Park

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 2.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 275 feet

Access: From Monroe, exit SR 522 onto Main Street heading west and immediately coming to a roundabout. Bear right onto Tester Road and proceed 3.0 miles to a T-intersection just after passing under SR 522. Turn left and proceed to South Parking Area. If gated, park at Lower South Parking Area.

Notes: Dogs must be leashed.

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

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

Snohomish County’s largest county park, nearly 1500-acre Lord Hill Regional Park acts as a giant green wedge between bustling Monroe and the city of Snohomish. A land of heavily forested slopes, lush ravines, basaltic outcroppings, wetland ponds, and a wild undeveloped stretch of the Snohomish River; Lord Hill is a haven not only for wildlife, but for 100,000s of folks living nearby. But despite its close proximity to the state’s main urban corridor, Lord Hill rarely gets crowded. And with more than 30 miles of trails (many unofficial and in the process of being closed or rehabilitated) and several more miles of old woods roads, this property provides countless hiking options.

Most visitors begin their park outings from the northern trailhead, reached off of 127th SE Ave from Snohomish. The River View Quarry Trail is accessed from the park’s southern quieter trailhead. This area of the park once housed a beautiful old barn and a large quarry operation. The barn (suspiciously) went up in flames a few years ago and much of the quarry has been reclaimed. But, a handful of relics from the area’s human history can still be found in this area of the park.

From the upper parking lot head head to the Upper Loop. You’ll be returning on the dirt road which you entered the park. Head. It’s possible to explore the river shore across meadows and an old tree farm on a lower trail; but the area is prone to flooding, so best to check it out during the drier months.

Your route passes by some mature cedars and firs eventually coming to the old quarry. Pass beneath cut ledges now quickly being reclaimed by greenery before coming to an old rusting steam shovel and small shack. The way then turns northward climbing steeply up a lush ravine. There are good views south over the river and rolling countryside. Soon come to a small wetland created by an old earthen dam since breached. Bear right and come to a junction.

You can head right for a shorter return, or bear left the preferred route climbing along the edge of a grassy depression—a reclaimed quarry pit. Reach a junction (the park’s unmarked trails can make navigation frustrating or fun) at another wetland, this one quite large and usually hopping with animal activity. The trail left climbs to the River Trail. You want to go right skirting the open depression looking for deer and enjoying good views to the south.

Eventually you’ll reach the Pipeline Trail, which bisects the park following a gas line. Head right passing the junction with the shorter option; then continue left steeply dropping back to your starting point. Feel free to extend your journey on the numerous radiating side trails you passed. A map can be found at the park’s website.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Lord Hill, visit

Coming Soon!

Urban Trails: Everett

Your guide to hiking and running trails throughout Western Snohomish County, Camano Island, and Whidbey Island

Pre-order your copy Now!