Paradise Valley Conservation Area

For the fourth time this year, my snowshoe plans fell through. It seems I have done something to anger the outdoor gods. However, lowland parks free of avalanche danger and full of trails are in abundance here!

Despite being born & raised in Snohomish County, I actually had not heard of this park until playing around with WTA’s HikeFinder Map. Located in the very southeast tip of Snohomish County near Maltby, this park, officially opened in 2009, used to be a farm and timber-producing homestead. Now, it has 13 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Unlike Lord Hill Park, these trails are exceptionally well-marked, and trail maps available to download or at the trailhead appear to be up-to-date.

We parked on a muddy, windy Friday I had originally taken off in hopes of snowshoeing. The lot was fairly full, surprisingly. The first thing I saw was a (undated) sign at the edge of the parking lot warning of recent cougar activity in the area. What?! I could hear trucks beeping and see houses from the parking lot! This was a rural suburb! The fear continued as the trailhead kiosk repeated the cougar warning and also had a black bear warning, which WTA had mentioned as well. Gulp. Assuming this would be a literal walk through a park, I had nothing but running shoes and a water bottle, while Mama Boots at least was prepared with her pack and whistle.

Luckily, we quickly saw a mother and young child on the trail, and I resigned myself that if either critter felt like attacking anyone, that child was prime bait. We pressed onward, aiming to do the permieter trail described by WTA. We stayed on the wider trail for a bit, ignoring forks for the Whispering Firs interpretative loop (great for young kids) and the Cascara Trail. We soon entered the grove of red alder. Mama Boots said at the wrong time of year, red alder gives her bad allergies, so pack that Allegra if in doubt!

We went left at the sign for the Wetland Plateau to make a clockwise loop of the park perimeter. We knew wetlands would only mean more mud, and there was plenty of ginger stepping here. I know officially stepping on the outside edge of trails causes more damage long term than walking through the mud, but there were some DEEP puddles! There was also a bench and a bit of a clearing for the Goold Overlook. This ended up being the only bench we saw for miles, so if planning on a lunch or snack break, maybe go counter-clockwise to end here rather than have it close to the beginning. My fears over predators disappeared as despite the thick mud everywhere, there was no evidence of even canine paw prints.

According to WTA, this is Smokey’s Bridge. No horses allowed!

We left the alder and wetlands and passed a few more well-signed forks, many of which led to residential streets. It was hard to believe we were so wooded in this portion and yet so close to civilization! There are also many options leading back to the parking lot to cut the perimeter loop short, if dealing with blisters or a kid who is ready to be done, especially where the ‘Mainline’ and “Big Leaf’ trails meet. We continued onto Big Leaf for our larger loop. Do pay attention to signage, as there are some bike-only trails, some of which are one-way. I find being on a bike to be akin to physical punishment, but some of the one-way downhills with banked turns made me consider getting in to mountain biking!

Do respect park guidelines–even if you have to hike in!

I noticed we had been climbing downward a lot more than upward, which is another perk of going clockwise. Every now and then would be a peek-a-boo house appearing in the trees before hiding from view again. Mama Boots got eager for another bench for snack time, but none appeared. We opted for one short-cut, rejoining the Mainline trail a bit early to cut off about 0.5 milesĀ  so she just settled for a decently dry felled log a little after 3 miles. If she had held out till mile 4 (will be longer if making the full perimeter), the Mainline trail has an area called The Clearing, with picnic tables and benches aplenty. If counter-clockwise, you will reach here in your first half-mile from the parking lot, so might be a good picnic option.

We rejoined our original trail and made our way back to the car. I couldn’t believe this hidden gem! So well-taken care of, well-signed, and uncrowded. Additional, mask usage was nearly 100%, which is unheard of! While the perimeter loop is five miles, with all the intertwining loops and routes, there’s 13 miles total here (although again, some are bike-only). While in February there was mud, other times of year will have huckleberries, fall color, and flowering salmonberries. I intend to come back for all of those!

In summary:

Distance: 13 miles of trails total, the largest route being the five-mile loop of the perimeter

Elevation: Was fairly flat throughout

Parking: No passes required

Bathrooms: We didn’t see any at our time of visit, but some WTA reports mention there is a Honey Bucket in the lot.

Best Beer Bet: Foggy Noggin Brewing in Bothell, or there’s tons in Woodinville within 15 minutes or less. We hit the giant outdoor tent at Triplehorn Brewing.

3 Replies to “Paradise Valley Conservation Area”

  1. Something about the sound of footsteps on boards as youre walking makes it seem like a completely different hike than a normal dirt/gravel path

  2. There were only boards for a short distance, but I enjoyed the break from dodging deep mud puddles. I did see a honey bucket type facility in the parking lot along with a lot of large construction vehicles. I may have wrongly assummed the toilet was only for the construction crews.

    1. Good to know! There were a lot of large semi-trucks in that lot.

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