Redmond Watershed Preserve to Downtown Redmond
A high voltage traverse of Redmond's outskirts
Hike Length: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Utility Companies: mostly ignored, sometimes reviled, they get little respect from the public. But you gotta love all the hiking trails that they unintentionally created in the process of laying down aqueducts, gas pipelines, and electrical transmission lines. The “Powerline Trail” is a fine example of how a utility corridor can be recycled into a recreation resource. These days the country that the trail passes through is more suburban than wilderness, but the walking is still mighty fine. Farrell-McWhirter Park with its hobby farm and quiet walking trails is a highlight of this tour.
Entrance sign, Redmond Watershed Preserve
From downtown Seattle, catch the Sound Transit 545 bus and ride to the downtown Redmond Park & Ride.
Transfer to the Metro 224 minibus. Warning: sparse schedule, no weekend service. The bus leaves the downtown Redmond area on Avondale Road, then heads east on Novelty Hill Road. Shortly after passing the main entrance to the Redmond Watershed Park at 218 Ave NE (on the left side of Novelty Hill Road), the bus turns right into the Redmond Ridge subdivision on Cedar Park Crest. When the bus turns, request a stop and get off at the official bus stop located on the intersection of Marketplace Drive and Cedar Park Crest .
On weekends, you can do an abbreviated version of this hike by riding Metro 248 from Redmond Park and Ride to Avondale and Avon Villa Road. Begin hiking toward Redmond on the power line trail, as described below.
From the bus stop in the Redmond Ridge subdivision, walk north a block on Cedar Park Crest and cross Novelty Hill Road at the light. Go left (west) on the shoulder of Novelty Hill road, where it’s just a short walk to the signed Pipeline Trail entrance to Redmond Watershed Preserve.
Follow the Pipeline trail a quarter mile to the signed junction with the Powerline Regional Trail, which (as you might expect) is located in an electrical line right-of-way. You will be following the power lines for many miles. Go left (west) here and follow the Powerline Trail, as it briefly leaves the power lines to drop down into a pretty forested valley with a trickling creek, then curves back to rejoin the utility corridor. The trail continues heading due west on or near the power lines, passing more trail junctions, and eventually reaching the edge of the park.
Beyond the park boundary, a fenced private pasture underneath the power lines squeezes the trail off to the side of the right-of-way. Once past the pasture, the trail drops steeply downhill to a paved lane, 206th Avenue. Here, the right-of -way becomes totally privatized, and you must walk on low-traffic roads for a long mile, not too unpleasant. Go right (north) on 206th Ave, left(west) on 116th St., then left(south) on winding Redmond Road, which travels past the privatized power line corridor to the signed south entrance of Farrell- McWhirter Park.
Though small ( only 80 acres) the Farrell-McWhirter is a real gem. Work your way north through the park’s dense network of trails. Along the way, don’t miss visiting the hobby farm (located just north of the South Entrance) with a collection of various cute farm animals. Bathrooms and drinking fountains are located nearby. North of the farm, there’s a lovely pocket-sized wilderness where tall douglas firs grow around the banks of Mackey Creek. Regain the power line right-of-way and trail near the north parking lot, where the route is now called the “PSE Trail”. Follow the signs pointing to Avondale Road.
Curious pig, Farrell-McWhirter petting zoo
There’s no more private property problems on the power line right-of-way from now on. The power line trail heads west through the lushly forested flood plain of Bear Creek. Just beyond the creek’s bridge, the trail reaches busy Avondale Road. Fortunately, the city of Redmond gives hikers the royal treatment here: there’s a crosswalk with a button-activated stop light.
Heading west beyond Avondale, the gravel-surfaced trail ( now dubbed the “Puget Power City of Redmond Trail”) climbs rapidly up to the crest of a ridge. From its 300 foot summit, views are good east along the power line swath to the forest ridge of the Redmond Watershed Preserve. Clusters of newly built suburban homes intrude among the older horse acre plots, but enough greenery remains to keep the scenery reasonably pleasant. A few low-traffic roads interrupt the trail at various points on the ridge. A long mile from Avondale, the power lines and trail abruptly turn south, then after another half mile they turn west again. Soon the west side of the ridge is reached, and the trail begins a steep, switch backing descent into the Sammamish River Valley; views are good out over the valley. Midway down the slope, the trail crosses the bustling Redmond-Woodinville road, the crossing here also equipped with a handy hiker-activated stoplight. A final descent brings the hiker down to the floor of the Sammamish River valley and a junction with the paved Sammamish River trail.
To continue the hike, walk south on the Sammamish River Trail, which parallels its namesake stream, sluggishly flowing in an artificially straightened channel. Strips of mowed grass alongside the pavement provide a good walking surface if there are too many speeding bicyclists on the trail, or if tired feet and legs need something softer to step on. The people watching is good along this stretch as hordes of happy trail users travelling on various wheeled devices or simply on their own two feet spill out from the offices and urban villages of downtown Redmond to get a bit a fresh air.
Near the 90th St. bridge, the river has been subject to an interesting experiment in “naturalization”, with rocks, logs, and gravel placed into the river to create a salmon friendly habitat. This spot is also nice for humans to take a break; granite steps leading down to a gravel beach are a handy place to sit and contemplate the rush of the river flowing through the artificial “rapids”. Beyond the bridge, the trail soon reaches the gray concrete city hall building on the left. Leave the trail here, and wander southeast through the municipal “campus” (nice collection of sculptures and plantings) to 85th St. Proceed east on 85th, then south on 161st, which in a block brings you back to the Redmond Park and Ride (at 161st Ave and 83rd St) and its extensive bus connections.
Get a charge out of life on the Redmond Powerline Trail!
From the Downtown Redmond Park & Ride, or 85th Street, Sound Transit buses make it easy to get to downtown Seattle. The buses also stop in front of the Redmond King County Library, which is a pleasant place to visit while waiting for your bus.