Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Whitehorse Trail October 7, 2014 end to end

This has been an impressive summer of improvements on the Whitehorse Trail.  All the more reason you will want to get out and explore this scenic 27 mile link between Arlington and Darrington.
People are out enjoying the newly cleared trail

For several years now, members of the Centennial Trail Coalition (CTCSC) have been lobbying, and promoting, and contributing to the continued full development of this great Snohomish County Parks resource.  Promoting of the Whitehorse Trail has been a natural continuation of the 25 year history that CTCSC has had pushing to create public pedestrian spaces built on the old railroad lines in the county.  The Centennial Trail has finally come all the way to completion, but that success story took many years.  Snohomish County Parks and the towns along the trail overcame the challenges, and now the Centennial Trail is the busiest park and trail in Snohomish County.

Members of the CTCSC asked themselves, "With the success of the Centennial Trail, what's next?"  The Whitehorse Trail presented a very ready and appealing opportunity, but realistically it was also going to be a long process.  Fourteen bridges needed decking and handrails to make them safe.  Miles of trail needed brushing and drainage.  New trailheads for access needed land purchases and development.
A view of the ferocious Himalayan blackberry.

A year ago advocates were asking, "Can we get one or two bridges decked, some gravel on another mile, and a little more trail rescued from the Himalayan blackberry?"

We will have to remind ourselves of those modest, realistic goals when reveling in the incredible generous developments that have come in this one amazing summer. 

On October 7th I bicycled in complete awe and wonder from Oso to Darrington where 16.5 of those miles are now a beautiful wide open and cleared path.  On the way I encountered two of the hard working crews that helped make this happen.  Using funding from Federal grants for employment development and economic recovery, Workforce Snohomish worked with Snohomish County Parks and kept several crews busy all summer long clearing what had been a neglected and marginally maintained trail east of Oso. 
This hard work not only included chopping and mowing miles of heavy growth of weeds and woody plants, but also pulling out the invasive plants by the roots, limbing trees, and installing new, more practical and functional barriers and signs at the road crossings.  Those of us who have been walking parts of the trail for years are amazed to discover how wide the old railroad bed actually is and how far one can now gaze at the long enticing expanses of the trail.

That work alone would be a success to rave about, but more is happening!  With the combination of a very generous donation, and other grants, Snohomish County Parks director Tom Teigen says that all of the bridges will be decked and handrails installed before the end of this year.  Also, a grant is set to proceed with laying down 4 miles of proper gravel on the westernmost end of the trail.

Wait, the wonders are not yet all listed!

Fortson Mill entrance
On September 13th Snohomish County Parks held a celebration at Fortson Mill to show off the newly purchased and cleaned up entrance to the trail 7 miles west of Darrington.  This site has long been a popular fishing access site, but now the mudholes have been filled and the brush cleared and it will make a fine new access to the trail.  It has been transformed from a muddy dark road to a nice park entrance.  When you visit, be sure to walk the trail east about 1/4 mile to the marsh.  You are likely to see a heron or eagle, and sometime soon you may see salmon coming through the fish ladder next to the old railroad bridge.

Closer to Darrington, the washout that has eaten into the trail has been circumvented with a good path.

Here is a summary of the trail status, starting from the Resilience Arch at the junction with the Centennial Trail.  Remember that sections of the trail are still in development and the bridges that are not yet safely decked are closed for use.

Typical conditions mile 0 to 3.4
From Resilience Arch to Cloverdale Farm (mile 0 - 3.4) the trail is brushy but good enough for walking.  The loose gravel is arduous and frustrating to bicycle, and horse users say it is not good for stock.  The county plans to put in a new layer of hard packed gravel to improve this section.  This section crosses one of the recently opened railroad bridges and is a beautiful fall walk along the river.

Cloverdale Farm
There is a nice trailhead at Cloverdale farm (mp 3.4).  Access via 115th Ave NE.  From this trailhead one can travel west to view the river and enjoy the fall colors.

From Cloverdale to Oso (3.4 - 10.7), the Whitehorse Trail is currently deeply overgrown and unusable due to Himalayan Blackberry.

Starting at where Lake Cavanaugh Road crosses the Whitehorse Trail in Oso (mp 10.7 to 14.8), the trail has been cleared of brush and nicely maintained except for the closed bridges that have not yet been decked. This decking and hand rails should be installed by the end of the year.

From mp 14.8 to 15.8 one mile of trail was destroyed in the Oso Mudslide, but there is funding to replace this lost section, and it will get re-opened.
The Oso Slide viewed from the newly opened Hwy 530

From C-Post Road to Darrington (15.8 - 26.9) the trail has been nicely cleared and is very usable except for three bridges that will soon be decked.

Come out and see the trail.  Darrington is a good place to start.  Check the map to find other access points, such as Cloverdale Farm, Oso, Whitman Road, C-Post Road, or Fortson Mill.


  1. This is great news. Now we just need to get it paved.

  2. Many - including myself - hope that this trail stays without paving... A more rural environment.

  3. I wouldn't want to ride my horse on paved trails. That is such a City attitude, to pave everything. *ugh*

  4. Would also like to see this trail paved, as well, but that will take time. First things first...get the whole trail cleared so folks can enjoy it from end to end. :)