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Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State

Hey Washington, you spoke—we listened.  

As we round out the month of February, RTC is pleased to present this list of top 10 trails that are making the Evergreen State first rate for walking, biking, skiing, hiking and the myriad outdoor activities the state is well-known for.

We want to thank our readers and members for the overwhelming response we got when we asked for trail votes.  Here are the ones that rose to the top!

1. John Wayne Pioneer Trail

Crushed stone, gravel – Adams, Grant, King, Kittitas, Spokane and Whitman counties

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail spans more than 250 miles from Rattlesnake Lake to the Washington-Idaho border north of Tekoa. Named after the group who named themselves after the famous cowboy actor—the crushed stone and gravel trail is well-known for its absolutely spectacular views, tunnels and trestles. 


2. Spokane River Centennial Trail/Centennial Trail State Park

Asphalt – Spokane County

Running more than 37 miles from the Washington-Idaho state line to Nine Mile Falls, the Spokane River Centennial Trail boasts both metropolitan offerings (downtown Spokane's Riverfront Park) and more rural settings as it follows the Spokane River. “Centennial” refers to the trail’s initial construction period. 


3. Olympic Discovery Trail

Asphalt, crushed stone, gravel – Clallam County 

The full route of the Olympic Discovery Trail traverses 130 miles across the Olympic Peninsula; the trail is bordered on the south by the Olympic Mountain Range and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One of the natural wonders is a sand spit, created by tidal currents, extending six miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca!


4. Chehalis Western Trail

Asphalt – Thurston County

The Chehalis Western Trail was borne from the Chehalis Western Railroad, which operated from 1926 to the mid 1980s.  The trail passes through many beautiful ecosystems, and urban and rural environments, and provides access to many amenities, including 170-plus acres of park land and Puget Sound. It is also a major link in a larger, 48-mile planned trail system.


5. Foothills Trail

Asphalt, Ballast, Dirt – King and Pierce counties

The Foothills Trail, a 12-foot-wide, non-motorized, asphalt trail and linear park, was first started in 1982 by “Dr. Tate,” a Buckley physician and visionary.  When complete, the trail will be more than 28 miles in length, forming the backbone of a 50-mile trail from Mt. Rainier to Tacoma. Efforts by the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition have seen some 18-plus miles completed thus far!


6. Burke-Gilman Trail

Asphalt – King County

The Burke-Gilman Trail was one of the earliest rail-trails built in the nation (1970s), helping to inspire dozens of similar projects around the country. It was named after the two original founders of the 1885 railway, Daniel Hunt-Gilman and Thomas Burke. It’s proximity to the University of Washington helps make it one of the busiest commuter trails in the country.


7. Snohomish Centennial Trail

Asphalt – Snohomish County

The popular Snohomish Centennial Trail was started in 1989 during the state centennial. The trail is open to cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians (it's flanked by an equestrian trail) and is accessible for people of all abilities. At the Machias trail head sits a replica of the old railroad depot built in the 1890s, and the trail is well known for its public art installations.  


8. Interurban Trail

North: Asphalt – King and Snohomish counties

South: Asphalt – King and Pierce counties

The Interurban Trail (North) follows the old route of the Seattle-Everett Interurban railway, which connected the two cities in the early 20th century. The Interurban Trail (South) follows the historic route of the Puget Sound Electric Railway, which shuttled between Tacoma and Everett until 1928.  


9. Green River Trail

Asphalt – King County

The Green River Trail is an entirely paved trail spanning 19.6 miles from Cecil Moses Park near Seattle’s southern boundary to North Green River Park in south Kent, near Auburn. Riders will pass through industrial lands, parks, communities and beautiful landscapes along the Green River and associated river valley. The trail also offers some great views of Mt. Rainier!


10. Cedar River Trail

Asphalt, Gravel – King County

The 17-plus-mile Cedar River Trail follows an historic railroad route between the river and State Route 169, offering views and access to Cedar River, Lake Washington, a variety of parks, woods, downtown Renton, Maplewood Golf Course and Maple Valley. The trail is a good spot to view birds, such as Blue Herons and Bald Eagles, year-round.

Photos 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 courtesy TrailLink.com

Photo 2 by Nick Bramhall

Photo 6 by Gene Bisbee


Amy Kapp recently joined the RTC team as a content strategist and managing editor of Rails to Trails Magazine. Kapp frequently publishes articles and blog posts about topics related to parks and trails, the outdoors and community development.

Posted Fri, Feb 28 2014 10:00 AM by Amy Kapp


Steve wrote re: Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State
on Fri, Feb 28 2014 6:18 PM

These are such wonderful additions to our recreational trail system. I've personally ridden on 6 of the 10 on this list and my favorite, so far, is #2 Spokane River Centennial Trail/Centennial Trail State Park, which I rode in September of 2012. It is a wonderful trail and it was full of friendly people. Love this list; now it's time to schedule the remaining four trails.

Hiker Dude wrote re: Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State
on Tue, Mar 4 2014 6:58 PM

I've always enjoyed the Burke-Gilman Trail. As i'm from VA, It's a completely different experience comparing to the Appalachia Trail

Fred wrote re: Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State
on Mon, Mar 10 2014 3:23 PM

Amy, You should modify your top ten trails to be the top ten voted by visitors to your site. I am sure that backcountry hikers would be voting for these trails. It is rather misleading. And note that the Green River Trails is NOT a rail-trail.

Amy Kapp wrote re: Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State
on Tue, Mar 11 2014 2:54 PM

Hi Fred, thanks for your feedback.  Appreciate your taking the time to reach out.  Actually, all the trails chosen for this list were compiled from any votes we received from calls for votes we put out through social media and our blog. Also, this particular list is meant to include all trails (not just rail-trails)...it just seems that historically we tend to get a lot of rail-trail votes!  We do our best : )

chris wrote re: Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State
on Tue, Mar 18 2014 6:41 PM

Love your article. Was wondering if there is any plans to hook the end of Cedar river trail to the John Wayne pioneer trail via the Milwaukee trail or pole road across the river? Do you know of any other bike options presently to get there from Cedar trail end ?

Jake Lynch wrote re: Top 10 Trails in the Evergreen State
on Mon, May 5 2014 3:05 PM

Hi Chris,

You might want to contact Washington State Parks!  They manage the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, and would surely be the best people to answer those great questions.


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