The Whitehorse Trail: Partners, Progress, and Potential

Snohomish County Bikes: an ongoing series highlighting great bike rides and issues affecting bicycling across Snohomish County.

Ready to create adventure on the Whitehorse Trail.

Ready to create adventure on the Whitehorse Trail.

When you hold an event and have literally every level of government represented—city, county, state legislature, governor’s office, state Department of Transportation, congressional delegation—you know you’re doing something right.

When private donors are willing to put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trail, you know you’re doing something right.

When over 50 people give up a sunny Saturday afternoon in early fall to come to an event that involves people giving speeches, you know you’re doing something right.

That “something” is the Whitehorse Trail in Snohomish County. As the Everett Herald headline read, “Restoration of Whitehorse Trail well on its way.”

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Branching off from the Centennial Trail, the Whitehorse Trail runs through the heart of Oso to Darrington through quiet, beautiful forested glades along the Stillaguamish River (great fishing!) with scenic views of the North Cascades including Whitehorse Mountain, Mount Higgins, Prairie Mountain, and more.

Wildlife, birds, and wildflowers abound. Largely undeveloped with large sections of original rail ballast, it draws hikers, equestrians, and people on mountain bikes. Repairing sections and improving the trail surface would expand its potential to include those touring on road bikes, bringing more tourist business to the towns that need it most.

When the dreadful mudslide wiped out portions of Highway 530 around Oso six short months ago, Washington Bikes had just received a grant to promote bike travel in Snohomish County. It was immediately obvious that in addition to identifying and promoting great bike touring opportunities, as we’ve done in our Snohomish County Bikes series, Washington Bikes needed to work with community leaders to find short- and long-term opportunities to grow local economies.

Tourism represents the third largest sector of the Snohomish County economy, and local elected officials were eager to communicate that Snohomish County travel is open for business and welcoming visitors. Through Washington Bikes policy connections and long hours of work with great partners who welcomed our help we’ve made bike tourism part of their economic recovery strategy, and it’s paying off.

Recovery efforts have resulted in rapid clean-up of the trail as Highway 530 has been relocated and is being rebuilt. A federal grant put 80+ people to work through Workforce Development, giving people jobs after long-term unemployment or job displacement. They live in the immediate area and get to enjoy the fruits of their labors with long walks on the Whitehorse Trail through the quiet woods.

At the event to celebrate progress and look ahead at future potential, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation director Tom Teigen said enthusiastically, “The partnership we’ve put together is really incredible—local, state, federal, private donations have all come together to get us to this point. And we’re here today thanks to Washington Bikes helping us connect the dots to be poised for even more progress on the trail.”

An anonymous couple has donated over $300,000 to the effort, enabling Snohomish County to repair and reinforce numerous bridges along the trail to prepare them for future decking and surfacing. With this donation, investments by Snohomish County Parks, and federal disaster relief funds for clean-up and repair as matches, the project is being submitted for possible state funding from the WSDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant Program in the upcoming legislative session.

The long-term vision that has inspired so many partners: A completed Whitehorse Trail connected to the existing Centennial Trail in Snohomish County, ultimately connecting to the growing regional trail network across Snohomish and King Counties.

This network includes the East Lake Sammamish Trail, Sammamish River Trail, Burke-Gilman Trail, and future Eastside Rail Corridor Trail, now getting under way with the planning of the Cross Kirkland Corridor, along with other, shorter trails and on-street connections. Just think of the total trail mileage!

  • Whitehorse Trail: 27 miles
  • Centennial Trail: 30.2 miles
  • East Lake Sammamish Trail: 11 miles
  • Sammamish River Trail: 10.9 miles
  • Burke-Gilman Trail: 17 miles
  • Interurban Trail: 24.9 miles
  • Cross Kirkland Corridor: 5.8 miles

Total: 126.8+ miles of trails connecting to and through Snohomish County — and growing

Snohomish County bicycling offers miles and miles of separated pathways through gorgeous scenery, small towns eager to stuff you full of pastries and locally brewed or distilled beverages, farms inviting you to pick fresh produce, antique stores, art galleries, local museums, and more. Imagine the power of providing an easy bike route from the major population center around greater Seattle to all this—wallets on wheels will roll into town ready to refuel with calories.

That’s the vision that had everyone so excited at Saturday’s Whitehorse Trail event. That’s the power of partnership, and Washington Bikes is proud to help bring this project to fruition.

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This article was posted in Advocacy, Arlington, Darrington, News, Oso, Snohomish County, Tourism, Trails. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are closed.


  1. campbell
    Posted December 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    This is great news, thank you. I would be especially happy about the soft surface walkway alongside pavement. I hiked the first five miles from arlington a couple times this summer. Will it extend through what is now forest from 115th eastward?

  2. dana
    Posted October 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Is it going to be paved like all of the others mentioned?

    • Barb Chamberlain
      Posted October 20, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      That’s the long-term vision, Dana–opens it to more users.
      Snohomish County has done a great job on the Centennial Trail of keeping soft-surface access alongside the paved trail.

  3. Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    When private donors are willing to put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trail? I have to know it. Should learn it to be a professional biker.

    Again ask: When private donors are willing to put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trail?

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  1. […] to see the Centennial Trail and to learn about the potential in trail extensions on the Whitehorse Trail, and north to Skagit County and south to King […]