Forum Index > Trip Reports > Moss Lake Preserve - Swan's Mill Pond - Tolt Forks Loop
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whitebark
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PostMon Jan 16, 2017 8:24 pm 
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King County's Moss Lake Preserve is a great place to do long, lonely wandering.  This is one place where going on a weekend is probably best - there won't be crowds and there is less chance of encountering logging operations in the surrounding tree farms.  Be sure to bring a good map of the area - the trail and road network is vast and complicated, and there are few signs. The mountain bikers have created some good ones that you can download. A GPS loaded with a good map is very helpful for Moss Lake newbies, as well as old forgetful people like me. The classic guidebook Footsore 2 also covers the area, and offers some history on Mr. Swan and his lumber mill.

Here's one decent map of the Moss Lake area:

MossMap
MossMap

Looking for a long, relatively snow free hike, I headed to  Moss Lake Preserve last Sunday. The gate to the park was closed, so I parked nearby and hiked the access road to the main parking area and trailhead.  A thin layer of ice and snow covered the landscape. After a short walk along the trail I reached Moss Lake, covered by a heavy layer of ice. Could be good skating!


I continued hiking on the trail/road which made a long curve south and east through wetlands and across a creek, then headed due north and climbed a gentle ridge.  About 1 mile from the trailhead, a newly built trail branched left, marked by  a signless post.  I followed this pleasant route through open sunny forest that allowed occasional glimpses of Moss Lake. In a half mile I reached a junction with another trail,. I turned right and followed this trail (called Loop Trail on some maps) in a SE direction back to the main Moss Lake road/trail. I continued northbound and soon left the park and entered tree farm country. A sign said that a permit was required to enter; I'm sure this is largely ignored.  The permit may be the same one used for the Snoqualmie tree farms.

The road passed many side trails and branch roads. I stuck to the main route, which at a point 2.5 miles from Moss Lake reached the Tolt Pipeline corridor. I jogged briefly west on this then headed onto the Swans Mill Pond trail, which is a bit hard to spot- look for some little cairns.  This fun little trail took me past wetlands to a crossing of Stossel Creek (precarious foot log available). At one point on the trail, my dog ran ahead to investigate some object on the ground.  It turned out to be a head of a salmon - luckily it was frozen solid and not a tempting target for eating or rolling on.  So Stossel Creek must have spawning salmon.  Amazing that the fish go all the the way up the Snohomish, Snoqualmie and Tolt Rivers to get here!

Soon after the crossing I arrived at the Mill Pond, also solidly frozen. Occasionally I heard eerie pinging, booming sounds coming from the ice.  I found a sunny spot by the shore of the pond and took a brief rest.


Nearby a 70's car had found its final resting place:


The pond trail in a short distance led to a main logging road, called Swan's Loop Road on my map. I followed this road east then south for two miles, a pleasant unexciting walk in mixed age forest. It was icy and I wished I had microspikes at times. At least this road was on DNR land, so no permit worries here.  If you need even more exercise, side roads that branch of the Swan's Loop Road can be followed far into the hills to the east.

Eventually I arrived at the Tolt Pipeline.  A sign said a permit was required for entry- some new Homeland Security requirement no doubt, since there was a treatment plant nearby. No one was in sight so I scooted across the pipeline corridor and onto the continuation of the Swan's Loop road.  This road took a pleasant scenic course near the brink of the Tolt River canyon. It was super quiet here, too., especially by King County standards.  No road noise (far from freeways), no jet noise, motors or gunfire.  A nice quiet soundscape is typical of the whole area. Light plane traffic seemed to be the main source of noise here.

In a mile or so the road reached some water department installation with a propane tank, then ended by the edge of the Tolt canyon. From here, a nice, well maintained trail led steeply down into the canyon, soon reaching the area around the confluence of two branches of the Tolt River - the "Tolt Forks".  There is a somewhat popular swimming hole here, but of course nobody was around on this icy day.  A scenic spot, one of the highlights of my loop hike.


From here I headed west on the river trail , a pretty path with a number of access points to the river.  My dog enjoyed a chilly swim:


At Stossel Creek the trail left the river and soon arrived at a ford of the creek.  An narrow ice covered foot log offered the only dry crossing - unwilling to risk a nasty fall, I did the classic butt-scoot maneuver to get across it.  Beyond this point the trail climbed steeply out of the canyon to the tree farm plateau above. A path called the "Short Trail" took me back to the Moss Lake Road/Trail that I hike in on earlier in the day.  In fading late afternoon light I trudged the last 1.5 miles back to Moss Lake Park and my car.

Overall I had covered 9 miles, and despite that I had barely scratched the surface of the maze of trails around here. I'll be back for sure!

MossLake
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Sculpin
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PostTue Jan 17, 2017 9:29 am 
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Thanks for this and your earlier report on Moss Lake Preserve as well, Whitebark.  I was headed out there on Sunday but was unsure about ice so we stopped short and hiked the Tolt Pipeline Trail east of Duvall instead.  Your maps will be quite useful when I finally make it out there.  Too bad about the signs discouraging entry, those are always disappointing.

I stopped going up into the snow a few years back for a variety of reasons, so these close-in, generally snow-free trails have become quite useful. I have been exploring the Tolt Pipeline corridor; I just discovered the trails in Blyth Park yesterday.

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Even my best friends, they don't know, that my job is turning lead into gold. When you hear that engine drone, I'm on the road again, and I'm searching for the philosopher's stone - Van Morrison
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Dalekz
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PostTue Jan 17, 2017 12:59 pm 
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I was up there biking last summer. Nice area.
Tried the trail on the on your map labeled  Orange arrow, it went a ways OK, but when it hit the road (solid line on map) it became a tangle of 5' high blackberries and not passable so had to come back. I continued on the main road to the pipeline road and looped back on the 25900 trail. Was a nice change of scenery--Only saw a couple of people.
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