The Foothills Trail follows a former Burlington Northern rail bed, connecting several communities in Pierce and King counties. The trail is shaped like a “T” where the western half of the rail-trail is fully paved and the eastern half is a mixture of some paved and some gravel sections. The southern section (the stem of the “T”) is largely gravel with a paved stretch through the town of Wilkeson. The trail also has a soft shoulder path for equestrians.
Currently, the longest completed section of the trail stretches from Puyallup through McMillin and Orting to South Prairie. Along the very western end of the trail, it parallels a still-active Burlington Northern track. In a nod to this rail connection, the trailheads in McMillin and South Prairie resemble miniature train stations.
Near Orting, Mt. Rainier can be seen from a distance and, at some points, the trail gets quite close to Carbon River and South Prairie Creek, offering a pleasant route along the tree-lined waterways and historical railroad trestles across them. About three miles from Orting, a wetland area is well worth a stop, and travelers will find a picnic table and grill there.
Additional, shorter sections of the trail can be found in Wilkeson, Carbonado, Buckley, and Enumclaw.
The effort to build the trail started in 1984 when Doug Tait, a Buckley physician and a community visionary, organized the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition to assist Pierce County Parks in its creation.
McMillin and Orting trailheads: From State Highway 167 and/or 512, take the State Highway 410 exit, then take the Orting/Sumner exit which is Route 162. Turn right towards Orting. The McMillin trailhead is on the right directly after the cement bridge at the confluence of the Puyallup and Carbon Rivers. The Orting trailhead is 2.2 miles further on the right located in Orting City Park.
Buckley Traihead: From State Highway 167 and/or 512, take the State Highway 410 exit. Take the Park Avenue exit and turn right heading east. Turn at the first left onto North River Avenue. Go straight to the National Guard parking. The trailhead is a paved section through the town of Buckley and north about 1 mile beyond Ryan Road.