Winter Hikes in Everett
Three excellent winter hikes near Everett
By Craig Romano, author of Urban Trails Everett (Mountaineers Books)
Winter has descended upon us. The backcountry trails are now buried in snow and pretty much
off limits until next summer. But there’s no need to put away your hiking shoes. There are scores
of excellent snow-free low country hikes within and near Everett. So there’s no need to travel far
during these days of early sunsets. Many of these trails offer stunning views, excellent wildlife
viewing—and an added bonus of often being crowd-free during the winter months. Here are
three of my favorite winter hiking destinations just minutes from downtown Everett.
Meadowdale Beach Park
Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain: 425 feet
Hike through a deep green ravine cradling a salmon-spawning stream to a quiet Puget Sound
beach granting sweeping views of Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains. Meadowdale
Beach Park’s Lunds Gulch forms a green swath in suburbanized southern Snohomish County.
This 108-acre park is not only a coveted recreation area for area residents, but also a refuge to
The trail through Lunds Gulch wastes no time dropping more than 400-feet into the
emerald ravine. Sturdy steps help you negotiate the descent. Big boughs of ferns line the way. So
do hefty cedar and hemlock stumps, testaments to the giants that once flourished here before
pioneering loggers “discovered” them. Not all of the big trees here were harvested though; a few
giant firs, cottonwoods, and Sitka spruces still stand tall within the lush gulch.
The trail crosses some side creeks eventually coming alongside the small creek named
after the man who homesteaded here, John Lund. The waterway makes a short journey to the
sound. But it’s an important run supporting spawning salmon.
Continue hiking along the creek and through forest eventually coming to a railroad
underpass. Make tracks under the tracks and reach the beach. When the tide is low you can roam
on extensive flats. Rest on a driftwood log, comb the shore, and enjoy a splendid view of
Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains. Sunsets are supreme here, but don’t forget to allot
yourself some daylight for the return to your vehicle.
Japanese Gulch Conservation Area
Distance: more than 7 miles of trails
Elevation gain: up to 500 feet
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Straddling the Everett-Mukilteo city line and tucked between Boeing Paine Field and Possession
Sound is a lush greenbelt harboring miles of trails and a fascinating history. Once threatened
with development, a concerned citizens group helped convince the city of Mukilteo to purchase a
large section of Japanese Gulch for a park. Volunteers have since been busy constructing trails in
the gulch for hiking, mountain biking and trail running.
Japanese Gulch is laced with trails and nearly all of them are unsigned. Exploring here
can be confusing or fun or both. A good introduction to this green oasis is the Japanese Gulch
Loop Trail which begins next to the dog park. Follow this well constructed trail under a thick
forest canopy and begin traversing a steep slope above a tumbling creek.
The way passes a small old dam and spillway—remains of a lumber mill operation. This
deep ravine once housed the Crown Lumber Company which employed a large population of
Mukilteo residents of Japanese descent (which were heavily discriminated against in other
communities but found a home and employment here).
Beyond the dam, with the help of some steps, steeply climb to the 500-plus foot rim of
the gulch. The way bends north allowing for some views through the trees of the sound below.
Then the way heads south passing several trails leading left back into the gulch. Any of them will
work—but if you continue straight on the longest of the options you’ll return to the gulch and an
old road after about 2.2 miles. Then hike downhill on the old road following a cascading creek
and returning to the trailhead after 1.2 miles.
You can veer off of the loop by following an old woods road now trail to the upper
parking lot at the Mukilteo Community Garden. Trailhead to trailhead via the shortest route is
about 1.5 miles one way and 500 feet of elevation gain. You can easily hike 5, 8, or even 10
miles here by making a serious of interconnecting loops.
Langus Riverfront Park and Spencer Island
Distance: more than 5.0 miles of trails
Elevation gain: minimal
Dog-friendly: dogs prohibited on Spencer Island
The Langus Riverfront Park on Smith Island in the Snohomish River Delta is one of Everett’s
most popular running and walking destinations. Here a trail travels along the Snohomish River
granting views south of Mount Rainier rising above the floodplain. The trail leads to a bridge to
400-acre Spencer Island sitting in the heart of the Snohomish River Estuary, a wildlife rich
ecosystem where salt and fresh waters mix. Here trails follow snaking sloughs to a slew of scenic
delights from glistening mudflats to glimpses of snow-capped peaks. And the bird watching is superb.
From numerous parking areas within and just to the south of the Langus Riverfront Park,
access the park’s paved 2.2 mile trail. The northern reaches of the trail traverse neatly landscaped
park grounds. You’re sure to see lots of activity on the river, from waterfowl to local crews
sculling. The southern reaches of the trail traverses wilder surroundings, following alongside
Union Slough through groves of large Sitka spruces. The paved trail comes to an end at the old
Jackknife Bridge to Spencer Island. From here you can continue hiking on the island’s soft
From the bridge the trail left follows a levee north to WA Fish and Wildlife land
terminating in one mile. It’s open to hunting, so take that into consideration. The trail right is on
Snohomish County Parks land and closed to hunting (and to dogs). Continue to a 1.7 mile loop.
Throughout the island watch for wildlife. Scan reeds, cattails, and sedges for a myriad of
waterfowl and songbirds. Watch for hawks, herons, harriers, widgeons, ruddy and wood ducks.
Look too for bald eagles, river otters, coyotes, and deer. And enjoy the view east across the
saturated flats to Mount Pilchuck and Three Fingers.