Building the Garfield Ledges Trail in the Middle Fork Valley

A new trail in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley that was 15 years in the making.

Thanks to a partnership between the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the USDA Forest Service Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (USFS), there’s another great trail for hikers to enjoy in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley: Garfield Ledges. This trail is easily accessible by way of the paved Middle Fork Road and reaches a scenic viewpoint in just over a mile, providing a big payoff with minimal effort.

The time and effort that went into planning and building the trail, however, was quite extensive. The concept was first proposed by members of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Society and MidFORC (Middle Fork Outdoor Recreation Coalition) in 2004. In 2012, the Greenway Trust, in collaboration with the USFS, adopted the project, recognizing the value of this recreational opportunity for the public to appreciate the special nature of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. As plans for paving the Middle Fork Road came to fruition, the Greenway Trust promoted constructing a trailhead, picnic area, and trail to the viewpoint, developing a concept and raising  funding for these projects.

Once all planning, design, and environmental review was completed, the project was ready to move forward thanks to contributions from REI Co-op, The Boeing Company, the National Forest Foundation, and private donors. Construction began in the spring of 2017, with the Greenway Trust coordinating and supervising all the various work forces, both volunteer and professional, who played a role in building the trail. The project was a collaborative effort between Greenway Trust trail crews, USFS staff and trail crews, Greenway Trust volunteers, Northwest Trails, Inc., and McClung Construction Company, with support and contributions from many others. Work on the trail was completed on National Public Lands Day in September 2019 – making the initial vision a reality after 15 years.

What can you expect when you head out on the Garfield Ledges trail? The hike is 2.2 miles round trip and climbs 830 feet of vertical rise. With the highest point at 1,860 feet above sea level, the trail is accessible year-round, providing the Middle Fork Road is passable (snow is not removed from the road in the winter). On your journey, you will enjoy well-established second growth conifer forest with a lush fern understory. Frequent large nurse stumps provide evidence of the logging operations that took place here nearly 100 years ago.

The hike ascends to a cliff-top viewpoint with an expansive vista down valley to the southwest. The Taylor River and Middle Fork River converge far below, Stegosaurus Butte rises abruptly just across the valley, and Preacher Mountain stands majestically beyond. Far in the distance, you can also see Grouse Ridge and Rattlesnake Ledge. In addition to the sweeping view from the top, the trail also has a midway viewpoint, allowing hikers to travel as little as a half mile to enjoy a vista. This trail is particularly unique because it offers a full, down-valley view of a glacial valley containing a Wild and Scenic River, and absent of a major highway or other signs of development.

When trails are properly planned and built for the expected volume of users, they are better for the environment, safer for people, and have greater longevity. Clearly defined paths and planned drainage prevent erosion, reduce negative impacts on vegetation, and provide safer banks and tread for trail users.

The next time you’re out enjoying a trail in the Mountains to Sound Greenway or beyond, we hope you’ll pause to remember all the effort and investment required to plan, build, and maintain these great recreational opportunities.

Garfield Ledges is the first major trail construction project in the region funded almost entirely by private donations. You can play a role in making future projects possible – either by donating to the Greenway Trust or volunteering your time.

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