As I’ve said before, I love urban hikes. They are accessible year-round and some are a great way to keep in hiking shape year-round! So imagine my delight to learn Beers at the Bottom have a new hiking book out all on urban hikes in Washington!
I eagerly opened my copy of Urban Hikes Washington when it arrived. The book starts with a handy table showing, amongst other things, which parks were dog friendly or have the best chances of solitude. After that, hikes are organized by region, which makes for some easy planning. After passing write-ups on some of my most-beloved urban hikes in Bellingham, I got to the ‘Greater Seattle Area’ section. Despite growing up in Snohomish County, I don’t think I have ever been to Meadowdale Beach Park, so it seemed like the perfect candidate. COVID-19 note, this is NOT the park for social distancing. It was very crowded, and I’d say only half of people were masked. Once at the beach, it is possible to spread out a bit more (but we still had plenty of children running right up to us).
I had been warned that the parking area fills up quickly even on weekdays, so armed with coffee and water we hit the road. We still had to park on a residential street many blocks away–do heed No Parking signs if you want to avoid getting towed. You will head down a hill to get to the parking lot, and you will only descend more from there. After a sign and a couple picnic tables, the trail starts right away, heading down into a gulch that you’ll stay in until you hit the beach.
Because of the tree cover, we both were a little surprised to lose cell service. To some, this will be great news, but to those who like to be reached in an emergency (or those who hit city trails when on-call for work), this might rule out this trail for you. The lack of service even made my RunKeeper crash, so no info on my measured distance or elevation gain.
Down and down we went, eyeing the many benches along the way Brandon & Rachel had noted in the book would be useful on the way back up. The downhill trail eventually turned to steps, which I learned from the book were added in 2017 by the Washington Trails association–good work, WTA! You lose over 300 feet of elevation gain in that first 0.4 miles, according to the book, and you will feel it every step on the way up. The trail does level out a bit after that half-mile, and I took note of a few particularly large nurse stumps (see right). The water you’ll hear and get peek-a-boo views of is Lunds Gulch Creek, which at the right time of year Brandon & Rachel say could have spawning salmon! Mostly though, you are surrounded by maple trees that I’d bet are gorgeous in their fall color.
When you reach the opening, you have a choice between left and right. The guidebook recommended making a clockwise loop, so left we headed. There is actually a Park Ranger’s house here that I imagine is quite peaceful at night (barring any wind storms) and even a Little Free Library. I opted to not take pictures of the Ranger’s house for privacy (which I’m sure is limited during the day) but it was quaint. A few hundred feet more there are bathrooms (currently closed and replaced with Honey Buckets) and a picnic shelter as well as uncovered tables. Watch your head and follow the salt air through a very low underpass* (that can sometimes get muddy or flood) and you’re at the seashore!
*Note: Brandon & Rachel did mention construction at the underpass is coming for 2020-2021, so if you want some quiet, I’d go sooner rather than later–and on a weekday!
You can wade, paddleboard (we even saw people dropping off crab pots from their lugged-down inflatable paddleboards!), or take a seat on the logs and picnic tables nearby. At low tide, I’m sure it even gets downright sandy here! I can see why many people brave the steep journey down to enjoy this park, and I’ve heard the sunsets are incredible (but the park closes 30 minutes before dusk, sharp, so be ready to book it back–no beach bonfires!). We spent some time at the water’s edge, walking on the rugged beach a while to get some solitude. I think while this was mostly enjoyment, this was also partly to delay the inevitable trek back.
Following Brandon & Rachel’s advice, we went left on the way out from the beach. This makes a tiny clockwise loop from when you first saw the Ranger house, but the small side-trek was nice and secluded, unlike the rest of the trail, so a worthy detour. We re-joined the main trail and trudged back upwards, chugging the water we had brought to lighten our loads as much as anything. For the first time, I was finally hindered by my mask, as getting sweaty in it and huffing and puffing in it was no fun, but the constant stream of people heading downward meant no taking it on-and-off. My pores and lungs both needed relief! Again, there’s tons of benches here, if needed.
Your advice from the book isn’t over when the hike is! While the book is from those behind BEERS at the Bottom, instead of pairing every hike with a beer, like their first book, they have recommended local interests and lodging for every hike. While some of the local interests are breweries, they also have restaurants, coffee shops, or even museums close to hikes as well! In a pre or post-COVID time, we’ve had definitely headed to the recommended Astoria Pizza nearby the park afterwards.
I can’t wait to check out more hikes from Urban Hiking Washington. There’s tons of great hikes of all distances, some even offering solitude while still being close to their respective cities. I love how the book also had on the back page a handy list of the 10 essentials!
Distance: 2.6 miles out and back–more if you explore the beach!
Elevation: 470 feet gain you pretty much all lose at the beginning–and what goes down, must come up!
Parking: No pass required, but the small lot fills up VERY quickly. Heed residential parking laws.
Bathrooms: Flushing toilets and water fountains at the bottom seasonally (portapotties right now).