History lures visitors to the Snohomish County Centennial Trail. Trail users are reminded of old-time river and railroad settlements in the historically preserved storefronts and homes in Snohomish and Arlington. Illustrated displays at the regularly spaced trailheads explain the social and commercial heritage of the area.
The paved trail follows the original route of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway, parts of which were later acquired by the Northern Pacific and Burlington Northern. The trail runs 30.5 miles from the town of Snohomish to the border of Skagit County. After the railroad corridor became inactive, local efforts began for a trail in 1989, the year of the state's centennial celebration. The first 6 miles opened in 1991. Long-range plans call for extending the route southward to King County's Burke-Gilman Trail.
The Snohomish County Centennial Trail mostly rolls past farms and pastures and through forested watersheds. The path crosses creeks and rivers that drain the Cascade Mountains, whose snowy summits are visible in the east. Collectors might find it difficult to get started in Snohomish. More than a dozen antiques stores line First Street, where the trail currently starts. Better on-street parking is available at the traditional trailhead a few blocks north.
Though the trail soon enters farmland on the edge of town, this is usually the busiest section. Horse riders are prohibited between the Snohomish and Pilchuck trailheads, as well as another congested section between Armar Road and Bryant. Travelers will notice some elevation gain after passing the replica train depot in Machias. After the former lumber mill town of Lake Stevens, the climb continues through a forested corridor to placid Lake Cassidy, where bicyclists gather at picnic tables or walk out onto the pier. Cresting the summit, the downhill run offers a couple of viewpoints across the valley floor clear west to the Olympic Mountains on the horizon.
The trail's approach to Arlington runs adjacent to busy 67th Avenue through a light industrial zone. Signs at the 204th Street intersection point toward a new trail alignment that takes users into historic downtown Arlington and another depot replica. Just north of here, a bridge spans the churning confluence of the North and South Forks of the Stillaguamish River.
A gleaming arch marks the junction of the Centennial with the Whitehorse Trail, another rail-trail, mostly ballast, leading to Darrington (as of 2015, most of this trail is closed due to damage caused by a mudslide). The Centennial Trail continues on the left branch across remote farm and forestland to the Nakashima Barn trailhead, which memorializes the successes and difficulties of a Japanese American family.
To reach the Snohomish trailhead from Interstate 405, take Exit 23 onto State Route 522 E. Follow SR 522 E for 2.4 miles, and exit onto SR 9 N toward Snohomish. Continue for 9.5 miles to the Snohomish exit. Turn right onto Second Street. After approximately 1 mile, turn left onto Maple Avenue. Go five or six blocks. Look for on-street parking on the right.
To reach the Nakashima Heritage Barn/North trailhead from I-5, take Exit 208 for SR 530 toward Arlington. Follow SR 530 E for 3.7 miles. Turn left onto SR 9. After 7.7 miles, the trailhead is on the left.