You’re likely to encounter horseback riders on the trails at Lord Hill Park. (Kevin Clark/ The Herald)

You’re likely to encounter horseback riders on the trails at Lord Hill Park. (Kevin Clark/ The Herald)

Explore the park that soars above the Snohomish River Valley

The 1,463-acre Lord Hill Park offers trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding near Snohomish.

Daylight’s waning, but fall color is intensifying.

That means it’s a good time to explore Lord Hill Regional Park near Snohomish. This 1,463-acre nature preserve has more than 33 miles of trails and an overlook at 630 feet elevation that on clear days provides views of the Seattle skyline. There are biking and equestrian trails, opportunities for birding, and river access where lucky fishermen sometimes land a steelhead pulled fighting from the Snohomish River.

And there’s one more park allure that only happens this time of year.

“Fall is special because of the color of the large-leaf maple trees,” said John Tucker, senior park ranger. “Folks love the sound of the leaves crunching under their feet as they’re hiking.”

And after all the leaves have fallen, park views that otherwise are hidden are opened up. “You get a better idea of the terrain,” Tucker said.

His tips: If you’re hiking with family and friends, have the tallest person take the lead to clear away the spider webs. And if you want to hear the crunch of the leaves under your feet, get there before the steady fall rain turns them to slushy mush.

Amy Lucas, a senior planner in the county’s parks and recreation department, said she, too, especially enjoys the park’s fall foliage. One of her favorite walks is the northern part of the park along the Pipeline and Main trails, with its bigleaf maples and hardwood trees that pop with fall colors.

Some people head to the park for another seasonal reason — mushroom hunting, she said.

Wildlife that can be spotted at the park include deer, beavers and coyotes, and there’s even been some reports of bobcat sightings.

The variety of birds are so numerous that the Pilchuck Audubon Society compiled a survey of the park’s species. They include black-throated gray warblers, Pacific slope flycatchers, warbling vireos and Western tanagers.

Speaking of beavers, yes, you really can see them at the park’s Beaver Lodge Pond.

“Usually you hear them before you see them,” Tucker said. “They’ll slap their tails on the water, warning other beavers or maybe trying to scare us away.”

Go early in the morning or around dusk if you’d like to see them at work — or play.

A quick look at the park’s map shows so many winding, interwoven trails that they look like a plate of spaghetti.

Here are tips from Lucas and Tucker on some of their favorite park trails:

Rock Candy Lookout: Also known as Viewpoint 630, named for the elevation at that spot, it “offers 360-degree views of the Snohomish River valley, Mount Rainier and south toward Seattle,” Lucas said.

Also look for glacier-scraped bedrock and erratic boulders, rocks that are dissimilar from those typically found in the area and deposited by glaciers, here and elsewhere in the park.

Main Trail and West View Loop: These two trails are good ones for fall color.

Temple Pond Loop: Take note of forest transitions from deciduous trees, such as cottonwoods and maples, to evergreens as you traverse around the pond.

An important heads-up on the trails: As previously mentioned, they are winding and intersecting. Of the 33 miles of trails, only 6 miles are marked and named, and many intersections are not signed.

Plans are underway for more signs, but until that occurs, take time to orient yourself to the trails and landscape. If Yelp reviews of the park are any indication, plenty of folks get lost there.

Oh, and there’s another complaint frequently expressed online: horse manure on the equestrian trails.

At the south end of the park, there’s access to the Snohomish River, with trails out to several nice sandbars, Lucas said.

That spot holds one of Lucas’ most vivid memories of the park in his three decades of working for the county’s parks department.

He recalls the day he saw several steelhead fishermen on the bank of the river: “As soon as I got down there, this guy hooked an 18-pound steelhead and brought it ashore,” Lucas said. “It was fun seeing him fight that fish and bring it in.”

Asked if all the park’s mix of qualities makes it his favorite park, he responded without hesitation.

“Oh yeah, by far.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

Lord Hill Regional Park, 12921 150th St. SE, Snohomish, is open 7 a.m. to dusk. Equestrian parking is available at 14911 127th Ave. SE. There are no parking or entry fees.

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the fall issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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