|Iron Goat Trail near Steven's Pass, WA|
Over a year ago, Covid19 began to dominate life in Western WA. Daily counts of the increasing infections and deaths became a regular morning roll call, with each day bringing a new list of closures, cancellations and restrictions. The outdoors -- always important to residents of this region -- became one of the few opportunities for escape. Before the March 23 "Healthy at Home" lockdowns were implemented, I took a hike and jotted down some notes for a post about hiking with a wheelchair during the pandemic. At that time, people outdoors did not wear masks and were uncertain or even unconcerned about trail etiquette during a pandemic. My notes at the time expressed my anxiety about hiking on local trails, which were over-run by families and teenagers in the early afternoon, giving way to an endless stream of runners and dog-walkers in the evenings.
A couple of weeks later, I went on another hike. This time we drove over an hour outside of Seattle, hoping distance would diminish the crowds. To our surprise, the trailhead parking lot was full, so we waited until 5 pm, when the lot was empty, and we had the trail to ourselves.
Over time, people in Western WA have settled into Covid-prevention behaviors. Mask-wearing, even on trails, has become ubiquitous, and the majority of the hiking community seems to abide by a set of pandemic hiking protocols. Still, because the outdoors offered one of the few safe outlets for recreation during the pandemic, many trails in Western WA suffered from over-use. The vaccination roll-out and the coming of summer bring new recreational possibilities and lists of creative and safe openings, which may lower the impact on Western WA trails. On the other hand, the discovery of the great outdoors and the joys of hiking may be one of the lasting changes brought by the pandemic conditions. All the more thanks and donations that are due WTA and other organizations working on trail maintenance.
In the past year, I've been fortunate to try a variety of trail settings in Western WA. I stuck to recommendations, and most of the trails were truly accessible (there may have been a downed tree, oversized root, or exposed bridge edge that required creative thinking or a turnaround, but hopefully those obstacles were temporary). Here is my latest list of wheelchair hiking suggestions, which can be added to previous compilations of accessible trails (see below). For this list, I've included trail smoothness (which considers exposed roots, rocks, and bridge edges -- mostly for power chairs) and levelness (which considers hills and side slope -- mostly for manual chairs). As always, these descriptions are limited by my less-than-perfect memory and by Blogger's strange formatting results.
Trail: Interlaken Park
Distance: .4 m each way
Surface: Paved road
Smoothness: Smooth road
Levelness: Minimal hills, but some side slope
Trailhead: One end is at E Interlaken Blvd & 19th Ave E. One end is at E Interlaken Blvd & 21st Ave E.
Other: There is no parking lot nor facilities. The neighborhood has winding roads, making the park difficult to find.
Trail: Padilla Bay Shore Trail
Distance: 2.25 m each way
Surface: Hard- packed gravel
Smoothness: Excellent when dry
View: Estuary with birds, Salish Sea with islands, and oil refinery.
Trailhead: South Trailhead has parking lot with (accessible) Honey Bucket and wheelchair-accessible ATV-guard
Other: Breadfarm and Farm to Market Bakery in nearby Bow and Edison
Trail: Sand Dunes Trail
Distance: 1.2 m loop
Smoothness: Mostly good; one section wind-swept with a little sand; one section with 2 large upswells in pavement from roots (can be circumvented)
View: Salish Sea with islands, beach with dunes and driftwood, stand of (big) trees
Trailhead: West Beach has a large paved parking lot with disabled parking and restrooms.
Other: Trail passes Cranberry Lake with beach, picnic tables (1 accessible), restrooms, and concessions
Trail: Camp Brown
Distance: .45 m loop
Surface: Hard-packed dirt
Smoothness: Good in good weather
Levelness: Flat, except for hills at beginning and end
View: Trees, Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, mountains
Trailhead: Paved parking lot with disabled parking and accessible outhouses.
Other: Picnic tables and areas (many accessible) with views
Mountain Loop Highway
Trail: Old Sauk River Trail
Location: 5.4 m from Darrington T-intersection on Hwy 530
Distance: 1 m loop
Surface: Hard-packed dirt
Smoothness: Good (in good weather)
Levelness: Minimal hills
View: Forest, Sauk River
Trailhead: Medium-packed gravel parking lots with accessible outhouse and picnic tables.
Trail: Big Four Ice Caves
Location: About 25 m past Granite Falls on Hwy 530
Distance: about .8 m popsicle loop from picnic parking lot to bridge (boardwalk) and then 1/2 way back to dirt trail leading to second parking lot, and then on paved trail between parking lots
Surface: Boardwalk, paved, hard-packed gravel and dirt
Levelness: Mostly flat
View: Mountain, forest, bog, river
Trailhead: Two entrances with paved parking lots (with disabled parking spaces and accessible outhouses) connected by paved trail. One entrance has picnic tables with mountain views; one is in forest
Other: Trail continuing up to ice caves is steep and has steps.
Trail: Monte Cristo
Location: Barlow Pass, 31 m east of Granite Falls on Hwy 530.
Distance: 1.6 m there and back (turn-around when trail takes short but steep downhill)
Surface: Hard-packed dirt
View: Woods, river, mountains, berries, bears
Trailhead: Locked gate requires key from Snohomish County Dept of Public Works
Other: turn back when trail takes short but steep downhill at .8 m; otherwise, trail becomes narrow, steep, and overgrown, eventually running into river
Location: Index, WA
Distance: .6 m loop (+.2 m each way to get there)
Surface: Hard-packed dirt
Smoothness: Good, once on ADA trail
Levelness: Mostly flat (a few small hills)
View: Trees (especially cedars and big leaf maples), fungi, ferns
Trailhead: Small, medium-packed gravel parking lot with no facilities at Heybrook Ridge County Park on Index-Galena Road off of Hwy 2.
Other: As of fall 2020, the loop was being built to be fully ADA accessible. There-and-back from/to parking lot was a narrow path, overgrown on the sides.
Trail: Iron Goat Trail
Location: FR 6710 (sharp left at junction with Old Cascade Hwy), which is found at Milepost 55 on Hwy 2, near Stevens Pass
Distance: 3 m one-way ADA (part of 6 m loop)
Surface: Mostly hard-packed dirt; some boardwalk and bridge with boards
Levelness: Railroad grade, but best if manual chair goes downhill direction only (arrange to shuttle); minimal side slope
View: Trees, railroad tunnels & bridges, mushrooms, mountains
Trailhead: Martin Creek trailhead (high point of ADA trail) has gravel parking lot, with disabled parking, accessible outhouse and non-accessible picnic tables
Other: Former Railroad; has interpretive signs
Trail: Rainy Lake Trail
Location: Rainy Pass (Exit 158) on Hwy 120
Distance: 1 mile each way
Levelness: Steep, significant hills; side slope toward down-hill side
View: Through forest to overlook of lake and surrounding peaks (distant larches visible in Oct)
Trailhead: Paved parking lot at Rainy Pass (Exit 158), with disabled parking spots, picnic tables and outhouses
Other: This section of the road is closed in winter till the snow melts
Trail: Black Pine Lake Trail
Location: West of Twisp, WA, down County Rd 9114 (Twisp River Rd) for 10m, then FS Rd 43 for 8 m
Distance: .5 m each way
Levelness: Very good
View: Black Pine Lake, rosehips, ponderosa pines
Trailhead: Trail begins at boat-launch at Black Pine Lake Campground -- a large, paved lot, with disabled parking spots, wheelchair-accessible picnic tables, an accessible outhouse, and an accessible pier
Other: Lake offers swimming, fishing, and non-motorized boating. Campground has accessible drive-up spots above lake and 1 accessible "walk-in" spot at lake level.
For more accessible hikes in WA and on West Coast, see earlier blog posts: