Shawn Foley eyes the obstacles on the Reiter Foothills Trail near Gold Bar on June 5. Miles of trails have been added and it’s one of the only dedicated riding places in Snohomish County for motorized vehicles.

Shawn Foley eyes the obstacles on the Reiter Foothills Trail near Gold Bar on June 5. Miles of trails have been added and it’s one of the only dedicated riding places in Snohomish County for motorized vehicles.

Reiter Foothills expands hours, adds off-road trails

GOLD BAR — Reiter Foothills, a popular spot for off-roading, now has more hours and more trails.

A state Department of Natural Resources project continues to restore the area and put in new trails designed to do less harm to the landscape.

Makeshift trails were created by riders between the 1970s and 2000s in parts of the 10,000-acre Reiter Foothills Forest off U.S. 2. An estimated 40,000 visitors a year were riding there by 2008. The heavy usage on improvised trails put a strain on the forest ecosystem, so in November 2009 the DNR closed it to recreational vehicles and started work to clean up the area and put in professionally designed trails.

“People recreated out there and they basically loved the trails to death,” said Benjamin Hale, recreation manager for the DNR’s Cascade District. “There are only so many places (off-road vehicles) can go legally and Reiter is one of them. We got a lot of use back in the day and we’re hoping we’re going to get more use with these more sustainable trails.”

Reiter Foothills reopened in 2012, but only on weekends. That changed Memorial Day.

As of May 30, the off-roading trails are open seven days a week.

Since the first new trail was finished in 2012, 4.7 miles of trail for four-by-four vehicles, 5.3 miles of single-track trail for dirtbikes and 3.75 miles of all-terrain vehicle trail have been completed. Nearly half of that work was done last summer.

“It was a very ambitious summer and we executed and we’re very proud of it,” Hale said. “We’re at the point where we have enough trail inventory to open seven days a week.”

The work isn’t done. There were more than 50 miles of user-built trails in the foothills before the closure and restoration. The current trails are a fraction of what was available in the past. The goal is to keep adding miles over the next few years. A formal plan was adopted for Reiter Foothills in 2010.

The existing trails include basic routes and advanced, technical terrain that only experienced riders with rock-crawling buggies can manage, Hale said.

The closest formal off-roading area is Walker Valley in Skagit County, Hale said. There are other areas where people ride in local forests, but it’s not always legal, he said.

Along with the wear and tear on the land from riders, Reiter Foothills for years has faced problems with dumping and criminal activity, Hale said. The hope is that the new formal trails will create more of a safe, family-focused environment.

“I think people are excited about it,” he said.

Reiter Foothills is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Labor Day. After that, winter hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The trails are expected to be open seven days a week year-round. A Discover Pass and up-to-date tabs for recreational vehicles are required.

People still have a chance to weigh in on the projects at Reiter Foothills or share things they’ve noticed on or around the trails. A focus group meets every fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the East Public Meeting Room of the Snohomish County Administration Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett. Those meetings are open to the public.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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