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Guide to ADA-Accessible Hikes in the True PNW

Enjoy the mountains and the forests from these accessible paths.

In Seattle NorthCountry, opportunities abound for visitors to soak up the lush, natural beauty of the region. Here is a list of ADA trails.

Please keep in mind that Mother Nature impacts trail conditions, and always err on the side of safety when enjoying our wilderness areas.

Iron Goat Trail - Highway 2, Skykomish River Valley

The Iron Goat is a wide, gravel trail that follows the path of the old Great Northern Railroad. Way back in 1893, this was considered the best engineered of the transcontinental railroads, tackling the challenging Cascades with grace. Now, it’s a gentle walk or roll along one of the original switchbacks.

Starting at the Martin Creek trailhead, the first part of this loop contains almost three miles of interesting, beautiful, and ADA-accessible trail. Wooden bridges cross gentle creeks flanked by small waterfalls. Many of the old tunnels and snow bridges you’ll spot were built after the Wellington Avalanche Disaster to better protect the trains from snow. Take a moment to read the interpretive signs along the way to learn the history of the railway and the people that built it.

Note: you will need a National Forest Recreation Day Pass for this hike: $5/car. The pass is available at National Forest offices and visitor centers, as well as through private vendors. You can also buy the day pass (called an ePass) online and print it at home.

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Old Sauk Trail - Mountain Loop Highway

Enjoy the new Interpretive loop with a delightful ADA-accessible trail that leads to a viewpoint of the Sauk River. This gentle trail, a little over a mile long, curves through stately strands of Douglas-fir and cedar, home to the eagles you may spy soaring above. Below, look for evidence of the local beavers. All around you, Giant volcanic boulders serve as a reminder that Glacier Peak is just upriver. This short hike offers a lot of bang for the buck, and is a perfect getaway from the city lights.

Whitehorse Trail - Mountain Loop Highway

This Trail has seen some difficulties, with landslides affecting its length. For now, a six-mile stretch remains accessible, with a wide, flat trail that accommodates strollers and wheelchairs alike. Following the North Fork Stillaguamish River, you’ll wind through farm and forest in turn, with bridges and fishing access points peppering the trail. Stunning views of the Cascades will inspire you to pause and breathe in the natural beauty all around.

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Get Away Without Going Away

Prefer to stay closer to town — and great lunch spots — for your adventure? For those who don’t have the time or inclination to venture beyond city limits, here are some in-town options for surprising nature retreats next door.

The Snohomish County Centennial Trail - Downtown Snohomish

This popular, paved trail mostly rolls past farms and pastures and through forested watersheds. The path winds through towns, with many opportunities to hop on or off for as little or as long a trip as you like. You’ll cross creeks and rivers emanating from the photogenic Cascade Mountains, whose snowy summits dominate the view to the East.

North Creek Park

Near Mill Creek, where shopping and dining opportunities abound, you’ll find an unexpected path to nature. The trail follows a one-mile, level gravel path to a floating boardwalk through wetlands with a view of a peat bog plus excellent wildlife watching. The floating boardwalk uses plastic foam floats under decking, to allow a safe path through the marsh. Still, flooding can be an issue so be mindful on the weather.

As you explore this lush wetland, keep your camera close. You might spy hawks, eagles, ducks, geese, hummingbirds, wrens, and even woodpeckers. The winding course offers the feeling of solitude in the city, even on a busy day.

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Lowell Riverfront Trail

The Lowell Riverfront Trail is easy to find, conveniently located right in Everett. The 1.6-mile pedestrian trail hugs the banks of the Snohomish River with a wide, paved path. The proximity to the city doesn’t seem to bother the wildlife! Birders should keep a sharp eye out for migrating tiny, ruby-crowned Kinglet, as well as a bevy of majestic raptors. This charming riverside trail is a perfect option for those surprisingly nice winter days, when the forest hikes might prove less accessible. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the nearby Rotary Park.

For those with more time on their hands, there are several wonderful, accessible trails just a little farther afield. And for even more exciting recreation activities, be sure to touch base with local non-profit, Outdoors For All, a national leader in delivering adaptive and therapeutic recreation for children and adults with disabilities. Their trained volunteers and specialized equipment can open up a world of outdoor adventures in Seattle Northcountry and beyond.

Photos courtesy of the USFS.

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Contributor
Krista Quinby
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