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

Mainline Trail—Hike through the heart of the Paradise Valley Conservation Area

The Mainline Trail traverses the heart of Paradise Valley

The Mainline Trail traverses
the heart of Paradise Valley

Quick Facts:

Location: Maltby

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 3.2 miles

Elevation Gain: minor ups and downs

Access: From SR 522 in Maltby (5.0 miles east of Woodinville; 8.0 miles west of Monroe) head east on Paradise Lake Road for 1.7 miles to trailhead.

Notes: Dogs must be on leash. Park open 7 am to dusk.

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Opened on Earth Day 2009, Snohomish County Park’s 793-acre Paradise Valley Conservation Area has become one of the region’s most popular hiking, mountain-biking and trail running destinations. Located just outside of the Seattle-Everett urban sprawl, this expansive greenbelt not only provides a superb trail system, but also serves as a refuge for a myriad of wildlife species. With over 13.0 miles of trails currently in place and more yet to be constructed, there is plenty of ground at Paradise Valley to explore. The 1.6 mile Mainline Trail travels south right through the heart of the park. Traversing forests of fir and alder, the trail travels through old cuts, stands of mature timber, wetland flats IMG_1139and a small ridge. While the hike out and back to the trail’s terminus at the park’s southern boundary certainly makes for a good afternoon jaunt, scores of opportunities exist to extend your adventure. A dozen plus trails radiate from this main artery including a few that are hiker-only.

For a quieter and wilder return, head left on the Southern Traverse Trail and then pick up the Forest Ridge Trail back to the Mainline. If you want a longer return, take either the Wetland Plateau Trail back or the snaking Red Alder Trail. There is plenty of ground to explore at this property that was originally homesteaded in the 1880s by James and Eliza Lloyd. They logged much of the property and raised cattle and sheep in the cutover areas. In 2000, descendants of James and Eliza sold the property to Snohomish County Parks.

Today the area flourishes with wildlife including deer, bear, beaver, cougar and coyote. The property also contains the headwaters of Bear Creek, an important salmon supporting tributary of the Sammamish River.

While there is currently plenty of terrain to discover within Paradise Valley, park officials wish to eventually expand the trail system to the northern portions of the park as well as construct an Interpretive Center. In the meantime, make a beeline to the Mainline!

For information on lodging and other attractions near Paradise Valley County Park, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEWFor detailed information on where to go hiking in Snohomish County, consult my Day Hiking North Cascades or Day Hiking Central Cascades books.0486

Lowell Riverfront Trail—Out of industrial ashes a riverside trail and park are born

Enjoy tranquil riverside walking just minutes from the bustle of downtown Everett

Enjoy tranquil riverside walking just minutes from the bustle of downtown Everett

Quick Facts:

Location: Lowell neighborhood, city of Everett

Land Agency: Everett Parks and Recreation

Contact: Everett Parks and Recreation Department

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.


Mount Baker in the distance.

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.


Trail is kid-friendly!

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 more great snow free winter hikes, consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck (Mountaineers Books)

Get your copy today!

Get your copy today!

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 Gulch─New trails and surprises in Mukilteo’s deep ravines


A pair of hikers head deep into the Big Gulch.

Quick Facts

Location: Mukilteo

Land Agency: Mukilteo Parks and Recreation

Contact: Mukilteo Recreation Department

Roundtrip: 4.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Access: From Everett follow SR 526 to SR 525. Turn left (south) on SR 525 and drive .5 mile to 92nd Street. Turn right and then immediately turn left into the 92nd Street Park parking area.

Notes: Dogs must be on leash.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow-free winter hike, urban trail

Once logged for its cedars and firs and slated for a massive refinery, today Big Gulch is a southern Snohomish County greenbelt graced with several miles of trails and offering some fairly wild roaming just minutes from busy Paine Field. The Mukilteo Parks Department along with a slew of volunteers have built and upgraded trails within this big green gully. The trail system has recently been expanded too, offering some decent distance and a loop. Hikers familiar with nearby Meadowdale County Park’s Lunds Gulch will particularly like this hike for its similar features and as a quieter alternative destination.

Once owned by the Port Gamble Lumber Company, the gulch and surrounding bluffs were heavily logged in the early 20th century. But a few big trees were left DSC07374behind in the tight confines of the gulch. In the 1960s the Chevron Oil Company owned the land and proposed a refinery for it. By the 1980s it was slated for the Harbour Pointe development which eventually became part of the city of Mukilteo. While homes and businesses replaced the second and third growth forests on the bluffs, Big Gulch and the Picnic Point Creek drainages (sometimes referred to as the Chevron parklands) remained green.

The growing city finally decided to utilize the gulch for more than just a greenbelt and make it a trail haven. Locate the signed and arched trailhead for Big Gulch at the southeast corner of the 92nd Street Park. Walk a short distance coming to a junction. The trail left heads back to the sidewalk along SR 525. The trail right–the North Fork Trail, utilizes sturdy steps dropping into the gulch. The trail work here is topnotch. The ambience here is wild despite the fact that houses and businesses occupy the bluffs above. Throughout most of the gulch you are unaware of that!

DSC07390Cross Big Gulch Creek on a nice bridge and soon come to a junction with an old road. The way left climbs out of the gulch leading to the Staybridge Suites, an alternative starting point. It also connects with the Library Trail offering a loop. Head right and before coming to a wide bridge immediately come to another junction with the South Fork Trail. You’ll be heading that way eventually. First continue right on the wide West Fork Trail following a sewer line along Big Gulch Creek. Despite the occasional whiff of effluent, the area is pretty wild and the walking quite enjoyable. After crossing a boardwalk, the trail leaves the sewer line and begins to climb above the creek. On new and well built trail traverse steep slopes high above the creek. Pass a couple of viewpoints and slowly descend. Eventually catch a glimpse of the sound before the trail terminates on a service road. Turn around here and retrace your steps one mile to the South Fork Trail junction.

Now head right (south) following a tributary up and out of the gulch. This section of trail is very nice passing big trees and small cascades in the tight gully. The way gradually reclaims lost elevation ending its journey at the Mukilteo Library on Harbour Pointe Road. You can either retrace your steps back to the 92nd Street Park or walk Harbour Pointe Road a short distance turning left onto SR 525 returning to the park on a lovely section of sidewalk that offers glimpses down into the emerald gulch. Or even better, follow the new Library Trail along the Gulch’s rim coming to the old service road. Then turn left here and pick up the North Fork Trail again. Tackle those stairs going up this time and return to your start.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Big Gulch visit

Big Gulch is one of the featured hikes in my FREE Hiking in Snohomish County booklet. Pick up your free copy at a Snohomish County Tourism  Bureau Center or download your copy

Looking for other great snow-free hikes in Western Washington? Pick up a copy of my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck. You’ll find detailed descriptions including maps to 50 hikes from the Columbia River Gorge to the British Columbia border.

Winter Hikes Card Deck