West Seattle is not the only spot in Northwest Washington home to stunning nature trails. There are many other areas with scenic views of old growth forest, incredible waterfalls, vibrant wildlife and the Pacific Ocean. Snohomish County is a hidden gem for bird watchers, mountain bikers and horseback riders alike. From Mill Creek to Lake Stevens, there are dozens of nature trails worth hiking, biking and running across Snohomish County. Popular hiking trials like Centennial and Heather Lake are beloved by both tourists and Pacific Northwest locals. Lord Hill Regional Park and Victoria Tract are perfect for mountain biking. Spencer Island Trail and Jetty Island Trail are ideal for wildlife viewing. Some are challenging, but most are suitable for young children. Nearly all of these hiking tails are punctuated by hip bars, award-winning restaurants and activities geared towards families. Whether you plan to mountain bike through Granite Falls or take your kids along, follow below for the best nature trails in Snohomish County.
Easy Hikes for the Whole Family
One of the most popular nature trails in Snohomish County is Centennial Trail. This trail was created on top of old railroad tracks in the late 1980s. Centennial Trail starts near downtown Snohomish on First Street. The well-maintained trail links Lake Stevens, Arlington and Snohomish. According to Snohomish County, Centennial Trail boasts more than thirty miles round trip of equestrian and hiking trails plus picnic tables and restrooms. Not only is Centennial Trail the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, but it is also a conservation corridor.
There are a couple of tourist traps along the Corridor too. These include Nakashima Heritage Barn North Trailhead and a replica of the original Machias Station railroad depot. According to Gene Bisbee in a post for Rails to Trails Conservancy, the former completes Centennial Trail. It also "commemorates the life of an early Japanese farm family." Bear in mind that cars, trucks and ATVs are not allowed on the trail, so keep an eye out for a parking space. Hikers, bicyclists, skaters and horseback riders are welcome. As you stroll along, be sure to check out the many restaurants and shops surrounding the trail. Before heading out to Centennial Trail, read through this bear sighting resource from Snohomish County Parks & Recreation. A few black bears have been reported in the area recently.
According to TripAdvisor, Centennial Trail is rated second out of twenty-six things to do in Snohomish County. Recent visitors to Centennial Trail describe it as “a wonderful stroll through the countryside” and beautiful if the weather is “sunny or gloomy.” Several reviewers note that this is a good trail for groups with young children because it is gently sloped and paved. They express that Centennial is “always a fun family experience” and that there are “many moms with strollers.”
Next on our list of easy hikes for the whole family is Heather Lake in Granite Falls. According to Outbound Collective contributor Tara Warolin, the Heather Lake trail is a quick 4.6 miles round trip. This trail presents a gradual elevation change of 1,034 feet. Once you reach the lake, the trail diverges into two trails. Both of these trails wrap around the lake and loop back to the original trailhead. Small islands in the lake, huckleberry bushes to snack from and wildlife to watch make this hike fun for kids and adults alike.
The Heather Lake hike is generally easy. However, Warolin notes that “the trail can be very wet and muddy with many tree roots to catch your toes.” As such, hikers should take care when choosing their footwear. Warolin recommends “a sturdy pair of tennis shoes” or hiking boots for each member of your party. Because there are stumps and tree roots along the trail, you might choose to leave very small children at home. Strollers are not well-suited to Heather Lake Trail during rainy months.
According to TripAdvisor, Heather Lake Trail is ranked seventh out of twelve things to do in Granite Falls. Reviewers note that the “trip up and down is full of wonder and magic” and is “great for all ages.” Others note that the trail is very “dog-friendly.” Views of the mountains, lake and “fantastic old growth forest” are absolutely stunning – particularly in late spring. For other trails to explore in Snohomish this spring, check out our post “8 Things to Do in Northwest Washington This Spring.”
North Creek Trail
Nestled in between Everett and Lynnwood, North Creek Trail is the perfect easy hike for families staying in either Bothell or Mill Creek. Only four miles round trip, this hike connects the two towns with Bothell on the south side and Mill Creek at the north end. North Creek Trail provides gorgeous views of the surrounding wetland. According to VisitEverett, this trail is an “urban hike that almost anyone can knock out in a single morning or afternoon.” Check this site for updates as new segments of the trail are still being built out.
According to TripAdvisor, North Creek Park – where the trail ends in Bothell – is the number one destination for visitors to the Snohomish County town. Reviewers tout the park’s “amazing boardwalk” and “vibrant marshland full of birds and vegetation.” Birdwatching, picnic tables and shelters make this spot ideal for families. One reviewer notes that North Creek Park also has “playing space for children” in addition to a “great trail.”
Other Trails with Activities for Kids
Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park
Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens
Miner's Corner Park
Best Trails for Mountain Biking
Lord Hill Regional Park
According to Tan Vinh for The Seattle Times, “Washington is the best place to be a mountain biker in the continental US.” This is because Washington State is home to diverse terrain from “‘the blast zone in Mount St. Helens to the high subalpine Colville National Forest to the rain forest of the Olympics.’” In Western Washington, Lord Hill Regional Park, Victoria Tract and the Redhook Brewery - Snohomish Route are all popular amongst mountain bikers.
With beautiful views of the Snohomish River, the eleven-mile trail that winds through Lord Hill Regional Park is accessible year-round. The park boasts a number of mountain biking-specific trails as well as a shared use path. According to SummitPost.org, Lord Hill Regional park “offers miles of scenic, well-groomed trails full of dense forests and abundant wildlife.” Visitors will likely happen upon beavers, deer and shrews between Western Red Cedar, Red Alder and Grand Fir trees. Lord Hill also allows overnight camping, perfect for mountain bikers on multi-day trips. For those driving into the Puget Sound region from out of town, there is a large parking lot right by the park. There is also a small parking lot for overflow nearby.
According to TripAdvisor, Lord Hill Regional Park ranks fourth on a list of twenty-six things to do in Snohomish. Visitors note that the park is a “great place to walk, hike, trail run, mountain bike or bring your horse.” Dense tree cover keeps the trails from getting too muddy, making this “an ideal park for riding.”
Redhook Brewery - Snohomish Route
The mountain bike trail from Snohomish to Redhook Brewery and back is a scenic route of about forty miles. This trail intersects with the Sammamish Trail, forming two loops along the way. Other mountain bike trails worth visiting in Snohomish County include Three Lakes Hill, Japanese Gulch, Victoria Tract, Gold Mountain and Blue Mountain Ridge. Most of the trails listed above have terrain that is moderately difficult to traverse. Blue Mountain Ridge in Sultan is particularly challenging.
Mountain bikers who adore craft beer will enjoy craft brews and pub eats at Redhook Brewery at the end of this trail. In a TripAdvisor review from 2015, Salt Lake City native Elizabeth identifies Redhook Brewery as “the best bike path rest stop.” This spot boasts “nice people, fantastic service and reasonable prices.” She notes that traveling to Redhook Brewery “via bicycle…makes this rest stop even more special.”
Our Favorite Trails for Woods, Wildlife and Waterfalls
Spencer Island Trail
Hikers, bikers and other nature lovers simply cannot miss the Spencer Island Trail in Everett. Those who enjoy pointing out frogs, watching otters play and watching birds flit from branch to branch will absolutely love the Spencer Island Trail. In her article “Everett's top three hiking trails” for King 5 Evening, Anne Erickson identifies Spencer Island Trail as “number one.”
Just off the I-5 highway within walking distance of Downtown, visitors to Spencer Island enjoy views of Mount Baker and tons of birds. Quoting Craig Romano, Erickson notes that “‘the whole Snohomish River delta is one of the best places on the North Sound for birdwatching.’” Spencer Island Trail is the best of the best.
Much of the trail is paved, which many TripAdvisor reviewers appreciate. This makes Spencer Island Trail walkable for small children, the elderly and differently abled persons. Several TripAdvisor reviewers note the trail’s close proximity to Downtown Everett and the I-5. This makes the trail accessible for tourists and locals staying in the city. All in all, reviewers note “birds galore” along the trail – one even seeing a bald eagle on their trip.
Jetty Island Trail
Another trail touted by Erickson in her article for King 5, is Jetty Island Trail, which is even closer to Downtown Everett. Visitors cannot bike, hike or drive to the man-made island, but there is a ferry visitors can catch each day. Quoting Romano, Erickson writes that Jetty Island “‘was built about 100 years ago from dredging the river.'" The dunes left behind have since "'accumulated, plants have grown, it's an amazing place.’” According to Romano, Jetty Island has “‘one of the best beaches in the North Sound’” and is perfect for wildlife watchers.
Wood Trail to Wallace Falls
Next on our list of hiking trails in Snohomish is Woody Trail, which culminates with stunning views of Wallace Falls and the Wallace River. A relatively challenging five miles round trip hike, Woody Trail is most popular during the Summer and early Fall. Hikers can expect an elevation change of 1,482 feet -- some of which is fairly steep. Found in Wallace Falls State Park, the well-maintained Woody Trail is near camping parks just along the Wallace River shoreline. Close to Gold Bar and not a far journey from Seattle, this trail is usually quite populated. Keep in mind that Wallace Falls State Park does have an entrance fee, as do other Washington State parks.
TripAdvisor's reviewers describe Woody Trail in Wallace Falls State Park as "a fantastic hike especially on a hot day." This is due in part to the trail's tree cover and waterfalls. Other visitors note that there is "plenty of parking" at the trailhead parking lot except on the weekend. As one ascends up the mountain towards the park's many waterfalls, the hike does become more difficult.
According to one reviewer, Woody Trail is a "great hike for people visiting the PNW" but are not prepared to hike Olympus or Rainier. The hike takes about 3.5 hours round trip and is "far more accessible and compact" than the trails up Olympus and Rainier.
Scenic Trails for Horseback Riding
Whispering Firs, Cascara, Mainline and Lloyd Trail Detour Loop
One of the most popular scenic trails for horseback riding in Snohomish County is the Whispering Firs, Cascara, Mainline and Lloyd Trail Detour Loop. Found in the Paradise Valley Conservation Area, this trail is just shy of two miles round trip. It takes just under an hour to hike, bike or ride. Like Woody Trail, locals and tourists both flock to this loop, so be prepared for some crowds.
On the western edge of the Cascades and eastern edge of Snohomish County, Whitehorse Trail offers travelers nearly thirty miles of trail. This trail traverses farmland, rivers and mountains -- offering a wide variety of vistas and terrain for mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers alike. In her article "Ride Horseback Through Snohomish County's Equestrian Trails" for Snohomish Talk, Courtney L. Becker recommends Whitehorse Trail to readers.
Becker writes that the Whitehorse Trail is an excellent choice for those with a heart for the backcountry of Snohomish County. " Whitehorse follows "the former BNSF railroad route through the North Stillaguamish River Valley." The trail "saunters through the valley from its junction with the Centennial Regional Trail in Arlington." Keep in mind that closures are common along Whitehorse Trail due to seasonal landslides.