What a close place to hike, did not know how I missed it! Just, literally, 2 minutes from I-5 in the very fringe of north Skagit County. This County Park is a hidden gem! The Park is jointly managed by the Parks Department’s of both Whatcom and Skagit Counties. This could be because the 82 acre park is in both counties.
To get there: Drive north on I-5 for about 17 miles from Mount Vernon, exit on Nulle Road, turn right, this takes you to Old Highway 99 North. In about a 1/4 mile, the Squires Lake Park parking area is on your left. Go past the first drive and enter on the south end of the lot. This takes about 20 minutes from Mount Vernon.
Here is what Skagit County has to say about this little park. I will elaborate as I took some photos and did a little digging about the history of some of the trail and the park itself.
The first part of the trail to the lake is a series of switchbacks, about 1/3 mile total in length. One of the switchback legs, the longest one, is clearly level across the slope. This leg is on the former roadbed of the old Fairhaven and Southern Railroad. This railroad came into Skagit County from Bellingham in 1889 and reached the coal mines of Sedro-Woolley in 1890. The line followed along Lake Samish, through Alger, along Friday Creek, through Belfast, then followed a direct straight route to Sedro-Woolley. The ‘F and S Grade Road’ into Sedro-Woolley is this former railroad bed.
Later in 1890 the F & S was bought out by the Great Northern Railroad. This link allowed the GN to complete their line north to Bellingham without building their own. A few years later, about 1902, the GN rerouted their line along the salt water beach area between Chuckanut Mountain and Samish Bay. The line makes this direction shift just north of Cook Road at ‘Belleville.’ This is the line used today. The old F and S line was abandoned and pulled up. Here is some detailed history of the F and S, via the Skagit River Journal.
The park trail choices consist of several loops. The Squires Lake loop takes you around the main lake, the Beaver Pond loop takes you to the edge, not around, the Beaver Pond. This trail loops back to the Squires Lake loop. The ‘Beaver Pond’ is pretty much a big swamp, there is no actual Beaver Dam, as the topography is such that a natural outlet keeps the pond at a single level, this outfall was just a trickle when I visited in October of 2016. The condition of the trails were pretty good and I think that even in the middle of Winter, they would not be very muddy.
The amazing thing is that it is so close to the Freeway, but as you enter the forest, the rush of traffic diminishes and you are in quiet solitude. The other amazing thing is that less than 100 years ago this land had been clear cut and was just an ugly jumble of stumps and slash.
Winter photos, lake is frozen all the way across, but still hikers on trail, even on a weekday afternoon! Trails all snow and ice covered, so take your trekking poles!
’til next time,
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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