The Snoqualmie Valley Trail rolls from verdant dairy land in the north to a clear blue mountain lake in the south. Along the way, travelers are treated to numerous trestle crossings, historic towns, views of mountains and farmland, and a roaring waterfall.
The 31.5-mile packed gravel trail follows an extension of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (also known as the Milwaukee Road) that linked Everett in the north to the main line heading east-west over the Cascades. The Snoqualmie Valley Trail joins the former Milwaukee Road main line, now known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (which extends east to the Idaho border).
People on foot, bike, or horseback can expect extended flat sections and a couple of graded climbs. Trail users can choose their terrain by trailhead: Duvall to Carnation for a flat ride, Carnation to Snoqualmie Falls or North Bend to Rattlesnake Lake for a climb, or Snoqualmie to North Bend for preserved natural features. Multiple trailheads allow easy access to smaller chunks of trail and leapfrogging with a second car.
In the north, Duvall's McCormick Park sits on the banks of the Snoqualmie River. The relocated railroad depot is restored nearby at Stephens Street and Railroad Avenue. The next 9 miles cross several farm entrances and roads en route to Carnation, which earned its name from the dairy industry that once boomed in the area and is remembered by large hay barns that dot that landscape. Wetlands, waterfowl, and songbirds create a peaceful, open setting and a barrier between trail and road. The trail arrives at Nick Loutsis Park in Carnation, where you can take a side trip a couple blocks west to visit riverside Tolt-MacDonald Park. The trail crosses the Tolt River and passes Remlinger Farms, open to the public.
Leaving Carnation, the trail begins a moderate, 400-foot climb to the upper valley. Over the next 8 miles, three trestles offer stunning valley and river views framed by evergreens. An on-road detour begins at a stairway immediately before the Tokul Road underpass at about mile 18. Climbing the stairs, the 2.5-mile detour turns right onto Tokul Road and then left onto Southeast Stearns Road. The road name changes to Mill Pond Road as it passes a lake once used by the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co. and Weyerhaeuser. The crumbling remnants of the mill, which at one time employed 1,200 people, are visible in the distance and remain a King County historic site.
The road name changes to SE Reinig Road as it approaches a trestle on the right. The path resumes on the bridge deck at the top of the stairway. (To avoid the steps, turn right onto Meadowbrook Way SE before the trestle. Cross the Snoqualmie River on the Meadowbrook bridge, and then turn left onto SE Park Street. The trail is accessible on the left from a dog park path or the entrance to Mount Si Golf Course.)
A worthwhile side trip in this area joins the 1.5 million visitors a year who witness the Snoqualmie River plunging 268 feet into the valley. To visit Snoqualmie Falls, remain on Tokul Road at the detour, and turn right onto State Route 202. Cross the road to Salish Lodge and the rest area overlooking the falls. From here, an alternate route back to the trail passes the extensive collection of locomotives and railcars owned by the Northwest Railway Museum in old town Snoqualmie. This option starts with a right turn onto SR 202 from the falls, crosses a bridge, and meets the Snohomish County Centennial Trail in less than a mile. The trail parallels the highway, passes the train collection, and ends at the old railroad depot, now a museum and ticket office for tourist trains. Continuing through town on SR 202/Railroad Avenue, the alternate route turns left onto Meadowbrook Way and returns to the detour.
Mount Si remains the dominant feature over the next few miles as the route crosses the trestle and passes through the Three Forks Natural Area, where the North, South, and Middle Forks of the Snoqualmie converge. A mobile fixture here is a herd of some 450 elk that migrate out of the hills to feed at the Mount Si Golf Course and the publicly owned Meadowbrook Farm, south of the trail on Boalch Road.
The North Bend trailhead, at Fourth Street and Ballarat Avenue, marks the last leg of the trail. Reaching the outskirts of town, the trail begins a barely perceptible grade past rows of blackberry bushes. Passing beneath Interstate 90 and then a short bridge over the rushing South Fork Snoqualmie River, the path begins its winding, 450-foot climb to Rattlesnake Lake over the next 5 miles. Most of the trail is shaded through this section, and it crosses a high trestle over a Boxley Creek tributary.
Signs at the summit point toward Iron Horse State Park, where the trail continues as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Ahead are Rattlesnake Lake and the Cedar River Education and Conference Center, where visitors can learn more about the area.
To access the trail from McCormick Park in Duvall, take Exit 22 from I-90. At the end of the ramp, head east, and turn right onto SE High Point Way, which becomes Preston–Fall City Road SE after 0.5 mile. After approximately 4 miles, which takes you into Fall City, cross the bridge and take the roundabout north onto SR 203/Fall City–Carnation Road SE. Proceed through Carnation to Duvall; in 14.8 miles, turn left onto NE Stephens Street to reach McCormick Park.
To access the trail from Rattlesnake Lake, take Exit 32 from I-90, and head south on 436th Avenue SE/Cedar Falls Road SE for 3.2 miles to the parking lot at Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area.