New year-round trail opens in Snoqualmie Valley Middle Fork area: Oxbow Loop

According to the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (MTSGT), they’d been planning the recently-opened Oxbow Loop Trail for nearly two decades. Over the past two years, the trail and trailhead in the Snoqualmie Valley Middle Fork area finally became a reality thanks to a partnership between MTSGT and Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The 1.9-mile loop trail offers low-intensity hiking option for those maybe not up for steep, long treks. There’s only 60 feet of elevation gain and Oxbow Trail also offers a parking lot, bathroom and kiosks to get familiar with the scenic area.

The trail accessed is by the newly paved Middle Fork Road off I-90 exit 34 in North Bend. Note: the road is not cleared of snow in the winter. So although the trail is open year-round, Middle Fork Road may not be passable at times. Reminder – a Discover Pass is required to park at the trailhead. There was a mudslide that closed Middle Fork Road at mile 9.6, but according to a hiker who used Oxbow Loop on Christmas Day, the closure is after the Oxbow trailhead.

According to Mountains to Sound Greenway, the story of the Oxbow Loop Trail began when the Vashon Glacier pushed its way past Mount Si about 19,000 years ago, forming a great ice dam and a large lake in what is now the Middle and South Fork Snoqualmie River Valleys. Melting glaciers sent cascades of frigid water into the lake, depositing copious quantities of stone-ground “glacial flour.” When the glaciers receded 17,000 years ago, the rivers started cutting through that sediment, which had consolidated into deep layers of clay. From this, the landscape was formed with its meandering watercourses, side channels, and ponds, including what is now the Oxbow Loop.

The new trail offers great views of the “sweeping river meander and nearby summits of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.” More than 220 tons of gravel was used to create Oxbow trail, covering major clay deposits in the area. Otherwise walking would be a slippery and risky. An 18-ton excavator was brought in to transform an old logging road into part of the trail, and as part of the project, WA-DNR also installed a large, steel bridge that creates a viewing platform overlooking a pond.

Excavator used to create new Oxbow Loop Trail. PC: Mike Stenger

The Greenway Trust’s Middle Fork Campaign helped make the new Oxbow Trail reality. In three years, the Middle Fork campaign has raised more than $8 million through private and public contributions to develop “sustainable infrastructure, access, and stewardship in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley.”

Oxbow Loop view of South Bessemer. PC: Monty Vanderbilt
Snoqualmie River views along Oxbow Loop Trail. Courtesy of Kimberly Schmeling

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