Day Trip Discoveries: Nearby trails to explore this summer

A ranger tour talk at Jetty Island.

Seeking a convenient day hike this summer? Why drive to the Cascade foothills when you can take a surprising variety of close-by trails — and avoid most traffic hassles and major highway repairs. Choose from beach walks and birding trails to tranquil forest loops among these four trails in Everett, Snohomish, Mukilteo and Edmonds/Lynnwood. 

Jetty Island, just off the Port of Everett, offers a real surprise: gorgeous sandy beaches — a rarity in rocky Puget Sound. It also has shallow saltwater that warms up remarkably in summer — another rarity. Go there to enjoy both beach walks and a trail that runs the length of the two-mile-long island — plus great views of Puget Sound, Whidbey Island and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.

Jetty Island is man-made, composed of dredged Snohomish River sands. It was created as a breakwater for the City of Everett in the 1890s. Over the years, the island has become a popular place for beach-combing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, kite-boarding and wildlife/bird-watching. It is home to 45 species of birds, including great blue herons, Caspian terns, snowy owls and peregrine falcons, plus sea lions, seals and juvenile salmon. Consequently, dogs are not allowed. Park rangers give nature walks at designated times.

Jetty Island ferry.

Unless you have your own boat, go during the annual Jetty Island Days, this year July 5 through Sept. 4. The Port of Everett partners with the City of Everett Parks Department to provide a 10-minute ferry shuttle from the 10th Street Boat Launch to the Jetty Island dock. The 60-passenger ferry is free, although donations are suggested: $2 per adult and $1 per child. Ferry passes must be obtained at the dock kiosk as the number of visitors on the island is controlled; when maximum capacity is reached during peak times, ferry shuttles are suspended. Call ahead, and see the website for the ferry schedule and island hours. 

A walking path at Lord Hill Regional Park. (Photo courtesy Snohomish County Parks & Recreation)

Lord Hill Regional Park offers a different surprise inland: forested trails that pop up to panoramic views of Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and the surrounding Snohomish River valley. Located south of the town of Snohomish and east of Monroe, this park is easy to reach, accessible year-round, and features over six miles of easy-to-moderate designated trails.

Lord Hill is the largest county park in Snohomish County with more than 1,463 acres. It is named for Mitchell Lord, who homesteaded there on 130 acres in the 1880s.

Listen for songbirds, woodpeckers and owls while exploring this upland nature preserve. Watch for beaver activity and dams in the wetland ponds. Reach viewpoints such as Devil’s Butte Lookout and the ridge of Pipeline Trail. Two favorite hikes are the Beaver Lake Loop and Temple Pond Loop, which ties into the Pipeline Trail. Horseback riding and mountain biking are allowed on designated trails. Dogs on leash are permitted.

Japanese Gulch in Mukilteo. (Photo courtesy Washington Trails Association)

Japanese Gulch is Mukilteo’s newest recreation area, a 144-acre forested ravine located just south of the downtown. Mukilteo residents protested its proposed development into an industrial park, and the city purchased the land to preserve it for public use in 2014.

Japanese Gulch has a bit of history: from 1903 to 1930, millworkers of the Mukilteo Lumber Company (later Crown Lumber Company) lived in company housing in the gulch. Many were Japanese, giving the gulch its name.

With easy access from Mukilteo’s Tails to Trails Dog Park, Japanese Gulch offers great walking, hiking and biking trails rated easy to moderate. It can also be accessed from the Community Garden at the 76th Street Trailhead. Dogs are allowed on leash.

Watch for pileated woodpeckers, great blue herons, black-tailed deer and seasonal spawning salmon as you explore this lush greenbelt on the 3.4-mile main Loop Trail. You’ll encounter a tumbling creek and an old dam and spillway, left from a lumber mill operation. One steep trail section climbs 480 feet to the gulch rim, providing views through the trees of Possession Sound.

Meadowdale Beach Park (File photo by Gary Haakenson)

Even closer, Meadowdale Beach Park offers another ravine exploration that ends at a beautiful saltwater beach on the northern Edmonds-Lynnwood boundary. Homesteaded by John Lund in 1878, the ravine was originally known as Lund’s Gulch. It features a 2.5-mile, roundtrip trail through lush second-growth forest, plus areas with seasonal wild flowers.

Enjoy tranquil hiking and birding year-round, with spring through fall offering the best trail conditions. Descend over 400 feet through the ravine and then follow Lund’s Gulch Creek, home to many species of salmon and trout. The trail is steep initially and can be slippery after rainy weather. Dogs are permitted on leash.

You arrive at Meadowdale Beach Park with a ranger station, covered picnic area, volleyball field and privies — also reachable by road via car. Continue through a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks to the saltwater beach and views of the Olympic Mountains in clear weather.

County park rangers conduct informative nature hikes through the park; you can learn about tree and plant identification, biodiversity and marine biology. Call the Program Coordinator at 425-388-6618 for rates and reservations.


Jetty Island

Port of Everett’s boat launch: 10th Street and West Marine View Drive ($3 parking fee)



Lord Hill Regional Park

12921 150th Street S.E. (public parking lot)




Japanese Gulch

Tails to Trails Dog Park on 5th Street, Mukilteo

Community Garden at the intersection of 76th Street and 44th Avenue


Meadowdale Beach Park

6026 156th St. S.W., Edmonds


— By Julie Gangler

Julie - headshot 2013Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.

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