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Originally published Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:01 AM

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Try the happy trails in Paradise Valley Conservation Area

A Woodinville preserve has well-signed trails and miles of forest.

Special to The Seattle Times

Location: Woodinville

Length: More than 10 miles of trails (may vary due to habitat restoration and trail-building).

Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate dirt/gravel trails; muddy in spots after rains.

Setting: Much of this relatively new 793-acre park in the wilds of Woodinville was homesteaded in 1887 and remained in the family until it was sold to Snohomish County Parks in 2000. The headwaters of Bear Creek are located in this area and serve as spawning grounds for several species of salmon, including sockeye and coho. Portions of the land were logged by the owners at various times, and the types of plants and trees reflect the differing degrees of maturity of the forest. You can pass under a second-growth forest of Douglas firs and Western hemlock, beneath a younger forest of deciduous trees that form a green canopy, and through a more recently logged area of head-high trees and shrubs near wetlands. Occasional interpretive signs describe native vegetation.

Highlights: Accompanied by a lot of birdsong, I had this huge and beautiful area largely to myself last week, aside from some locals on mountain bikes. From the trail kiosk, you set off down the Mainline Trail (a former logging road). Although this is a huge area with miles of trails, it seems impossible to get lost here; print out the topography/trail map from the park Web site before you come (note the way points to help keep you oriented). Every single junction is clearly marked with trail markers that include useful information such as mileage. From this delightful buffet of trails, create your own customized route, combining trail legs into loops to explore the park (it might make a fun family activity to have members rotate picking the next leg). Certain trails are marked as foot trails only; take these narrower trails if you don't want to watch for bikes or horses.

Facilities: Vault toilet at parking lot.

Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect.

Directions: From Interstate 405, take the Highway 522 exit and stay in the left lanes. After 5.5 miles, at the stop light, turn right on Paradise Lake Road. In 1.8 miles, turn right into the trailhead parking lot.

For more information: 425-388-6600 or

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her:

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