The author's teens pause to take in the view on the Garfield Ledges hike along the Middle Fork Road. Credit: Jennifer Johnson
Great hikes out of North Bend
It’s rare that a whole new recreational area opens up within an hour of Seattle, but that’s just what happened recently along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. The road out of North Bend that meanders up the Middle Fork river valley used to be notorious for its potholes, drug camps, target shooting and other nefarious behavior.
But a coalition of government agencies and nonprofits worked together to clean it up, pave the road and refurbish trailheads. The result is a family-friendly adventure zone along a wild and scenic river corridor, offering a bit of something for everyone. If you’re looking for a destination that’s close to home and low in elevation — and yet with gorgeous views and forests — then you’ll love this four-season spot.
There are a few things to be aware of as you plan your trip. The Middle Fork Road doesn’t get plowed during the winter, so it can be impassable during periods of low elevation snowfall. The surrounding peaks hold the snow into the spring, and it can be up to 10 degrees colder in the valley than it is in town. It can also be rainier here than in other areas, so be prepared with jackets and good shoes. There are two different government agencies caring for the land; make sure you know which parking pass to have in your car. And I always recommend checking recent trip reports from the Washington Trails Association to make sure the trail is open and safe for kids. There is no cell service in the valley. With all that in mind, let’s get going!
First hike: Oxbow Loop