Day Trip Discoveries: Walking, jogging, hiking and biking on nearby trails

A family enjoys the Centennial Trail.
A family enjoys the Centennial Trail.

Whether you enjoy a brisk walk or more strenuous exercise, you can take advantage of several convenient trails in Snohomish County that are accessible year-round. Some trails feature bird-watching and wildlife viewing, all offer scenic views ranging from wetlands to mountains, and one even includes horseback riding. Each trail is fine for families as well as serious exercise enthusiasts.

Right in your own backyard is the Snohomish portion of the Interurban Trail. The 14-mile paved trail runs from Edmonds/Mountlake Terrace/Lynnwood to Everett along the former Interurban Trolley route, which connected Everett to downtown Seattle from 1910 through 1939. It is well-signed, level and great for bike riders, walkers and joggers. There are several places where the trail is part of city streets, however, so users need to be cautious of motorized traffic.

Just west of Everett is the Langus Riverfront Park & Nature Trail leading to Spencer Island and its more rustic trail. This area is part of the Snohomish River Estuary, nicknamed the “Everett Everglades” for its many winding waterways and abundant bird life. Here you can see waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors, plus deer, coyote, river otter and small mammals. Bald eagles, hawks and herons are common sights, and annual fall and spring bird migrations through these wetlands are amazing to watch. Consequently, Spencer Island is a designated stop on the Washington State Great Birding Trail.

Langus Riverfront Park’s name says it all: a scenic river viewpoint with picnic tables, shelters and restrooms, plus a fishing pier, boat launch and rowing dock. A paved, 3.6-mile trail runs through the park and loops around the southern tip of Smith Island. Via pedestrian bridge, it also connects to Spencer Island, which has 3.5-miles of dirt and bark trails.

Walkers, joggers, bikers and moms with strollers enjoy the Langus Riverfront’s wide asphalt path, while Spencer Island is for hikers and bird-watchers. Here the trail follows the tops of dikes built in the 1930s for flood control and to create farm acreage. Ironically, restoration efforts have breached the dikes in various places to allow tidal flooding and help spawning salmon.

The island now mixes saltwater from Possession Sound and fresh water from the Snohomish River, creating a unique wetland ecosystem for both fish and birds. However, bikes and dogs are not allowed on Snohomish County’s southern half of Spencer Island. The northern half is owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which allows waterfowl hunting in the fall (check its hunting season dates).

The only drawback to this otherwise idyllic area is the City of Everett’s sewage treatment plant. On the paved Langus trail, you pass by several large tanks at one point. If you take a tempting, short-cut gravel road back from Spencer Island, you go by the aeriation pond and may smell it, depending on the wind direction. The scenic views of wetlands, sloughs and mountains from Spencer Island are worth holding your nose briefly – or avoid the short-cut and return via the paved Langus path.

Further afield is the Centennial Trail, a rails-to-trails route that now stretches 30 miles between the town of Snohomish and the Skagit County line. Built on the old Burlington-Northern Railroad line, the Centennial Trail began conversion to a paved pathway in 1989 during Washington State’s centennial anniversary – and so was named for it.

The 10-foot-wide trail is very popular with walkers, runners, and bicyclists, plus horseback riders enjoy a natural surface path that parallels the paved portion at several locations along the route. The level trail winds through farm land and woods, past old lumber towns and the Stillaguamish River, where you can see leaping salmon during their fall spawning. Several vantage points feature impressive views of Mt. Pilchuck and the Cascades.

You can enter the Centennial Trail from 12 trailheads, each of which highlight local history. For example, step back in time at the historic Bryant General Store, opened in 1929, still selling penny candy and celebrated by locals as a landmark. Visit the replica of the 1890 Machias Station, once a lumber-loading depot for the railroad.

Take time to view the large photos on the historic 1908 barn at the Nakashima Trailhead, once part of the Nakashima Farm. The photos tell the story of the Nakashima family, among the earliest Japanese farmers in Snohomish County. They raised Washington’s first registered Guernsey cows – from Guernsey Island in England – from 1937 to 1942. Then the family was forced to sell their farm and sent to World War II Japanese internment camps.


Interurban Trail

Langus Riverfront Park & Nature Trail

Spencer Island

Centennial Trail

Julie - headshot 2013— By Julie Gangler

Julie 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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