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Spencer Island

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Just minutes from downtown Everett, Spencer Island sits in the heart of the Snohomish River estuary, a wildlife-rich ecosystem where salt- and freshwater mix. Surrounded by snaking sloughs, this 400-acre island offers a slew of scenic delights, from glistening mudflats to glimpses of snowcapped peaks. And bird-watching opportunities here rank among the best in western Washington.

Starting by the water treatment plant, hold your breath and walk 0.4 mile down gravel 4th Street SE, coming to the trailhead proper at the old Jackknife Bridge. A paved trail leads right 2 miles to the City of Everett's Langus Riverfront Park. Continue straight onto the historic bridge. The bridge spanned nearby Ebey Slough from 1914 to 1980. In 1993 it was moved here to Union Slough, providing pedestrian access to Spencer Island. It is one of the last remaining bascule bridges (counterweight drawbridges) in the country.

Upon stepping foot on the island, come to a junction. The trail left follows a levee north to open-to-hunting (check seasons) Fish and Wildlife land. It terminates in 1 mile at a breach. Directly ahead is a short trail (often flooded in winter and spring), leading to a boardwalk providing excellent wildlife viewing. An old barn once stood here. A favorite subject for visiting photographers, it was toppled by a 2006 windstorm.

For the Spencer Island Loop, follow the levee trail south. In 0.2 mile come to a junction with the Cross Island Levee Trail, your return. Continue right, soon arriving at a bridge, one of several spanning breaches in the levee. These breaches were intentionally made by land managers to allow much of the island to revert back to a tide-influenced wetland. Scan the reeds, cattails, and sedges for myriad waterfowl and songbirds. Enjoy, too, the view east across the saturated flats to Mount Pilchuck and Three Fingers. Note the profusion of homes marching up the hills toward them. The constant buzz of traffic in the air also reminds you just how close the "civilized world" is to this wildlife refuge.

Continue hiking on the levee trail toward the southern tip of the island. Alders line the way, with an occasional birch or spruce adding a little arboreal diversity. The way then turns north, following alongside Steamboat Slough. Cross another breach bridge and come to a junction. The trail north dead-ends at an unbridged breach. Head left instead on the Cross Levee Trail, traversing wetlands teeming with life. Watch for hawks, herons, harriers, widgeons, and ruddy and wood ducks. Look, too, for bald eagles, river otters, coyotes, and deer.

In 0.5 mile the Cross Levee Trail leads back to the main trail. Turn right to return to the Jackknife Bridge.
Driving Directions:

From Everett, take exit 195 off of I-5, turning left onto E Grand Avenue. In 0.5 mile bear right onto E Marine View Drive, following it for 1 mile to State Route 529. Continue north on SR 529, crossing the Snohomish River onto Smith Island. After 0.5 mile turn right onto 35th Avenue NE (signed for Langus Riverfront Park), and proceed south for 0.5 mile, turning left onto Smith Island Road. (From Marysville, follow SR 529 south for 1 mile, turning right onto 36th Place NE. Continue for 1 mile, passing under SR 529 and coming to a junction with 35th Avenue NE and Smith Island Road.) Follow Smith Island Road south. At 1 mile bear right at a Y intersection. In another mile pass under I-5, where the road takes a sharp left and becomes 4th Street SE. Continue for 0.3 mile, passing a water treatment plant, to a parking lot on your right. Park here. The hike begins on the road.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 29 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Spencer Island — Feb 03, 2014 — geezerhiker
Day hike
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The weather was brisk, but sunny. It was a great day on the island. There are many ducks, primaril...
The weather was brisk, but sunny. It was a great day on the island. There are many ducks, primarily Mallards and Pintails. Also to be viewed are Herons and Hawks.

I worked on getting my ducks in a row today...

The loop trail is in great condition. There were no other hikers this morning.
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Spencer Island — Jan 14, 2014 — Muledeer
Day hike
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A nice little walk just a quick drive away, it's one of my 'gotta get outta here' walks. Even tho t...
A nice little walk just a quick drive away, it's one of my 'gotta get outta here' walks. Even tho the access is by the sewage treatment plant, the blackbirds in the cattails distract you from the ponds. You can park by the crewhouse at Langus park, or drive past on the gravel road until you reach the last small parking lot on the right. Since I was there last, there are some signs on the bridge giving the history of it. The trail is easy to follow. Go right and make a loop, or go left and walk to the washout. If the Mountain is out it is visible from this side. We did not see it today. Be aware that hunting is allowed on the north side, and dogs are allowed here also. The south side dogs are not allowed. Not a lot happening birdwise today, some ducks, hawks, a heron and some little brown chirpers, but the blackbirds are starting to come back. We did see deer tracks also. I wish there was a way to make a larger loop around the entire area, you used to be able to.
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Spencer Island — Sep 05, 2013 — Muledeer
Day hike
Issues: Overgrown
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Nice walk on a blustery day, great way to get out, but close to home. We parked at the shellhouse an...
Nice walk on a blustery day, great way to get out, but close to home. We parked at the shellhouse and took the path along the river out to the bridge, a longer, but more pleasant route than the sewage treatment ponds. We hiked along the north side, which is open to hunting, but we did not see nor hear any hunters, just a lot of skittish ducks. Blackberry vines are crowding the trail in many places. Thanks to the man who was voluntarily brushing it out. When we hit the breach, we turned around and walked back, and went the other direction. At the far end it is a bit overgrown with grass. It sure would make a nice walk if there were bridges over all the breached levees to make a loop, as it used to be when we first started hiking it. The usual assortment of birdlife hanging out, nothing too exciting. FYI: There is road construction under the 529 bridge, so we had to detour towards Marysville on the way out and come back across 529 into Everett. With our add ons, we made about a 5+ mile walk out of it.
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Spencer Island — Jul 05, 2013 — Greenhorn
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Overgrown
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We started from the parking lot near the treatment plant and there were no odors coming from it at l...
We started from the parking lot near the treatment plant and there were no odors coming from it at least on this particular day. On the way to the bridge we saw a heron land in a pond among the cattails beside the road. After crossing the bridge one can choose to go left on a trail open to hunters at certain times of the year. Or, one can choose to go to the right which is maintained by Snohomish County. We went left as it was the safe time of year. Starting out the trail is cool under a canopy of alders. It also had a lot of mosquitoes. Very quickly the trail becomes crowded with overgrown blackberries and small alder shoots and the trees overhead stop but so do the mosquitoes. We walked for about a half hour up to a sign (forgot what it said but it's large) then turned around as the trail really looked bad from there. The whole trail along the route from the bridge intermittently would open up pretty wide then reduce to very narrow and a pair of pruners would have been a good thing at those points.

At the junction where we met up with the bridge again, I also noticed a boardwalk off to the left. It's a nice place to walk and to look out over the wetlands....so we did. There was one mucky spot just before you hit the board walk.

Finally we went back and down the trail that is off to the right of the bridge. It was very wide up until the next bridge then it too became overgrown with blackberries. While on the bridge we saw a kingfisher fight with another bird. We also saw a hawk soaring overhead. Other birds we saw on the hike were a couple of eagles (in the distance), Red winged blackbirds, House wrens, Black capped chickadees, and sparrows. There were a lot of dragonflies and we saw a few butterflies. There was one other boardwalk and the trail to that was very overgrown.

Both main trails look out onto the wetland area that at times looks as if one could navigate in a canoe/kayak/rowboat during a high tide..as there are deep channels among the grasses and cattails. On the opposite side of the trail one can see glimpses of the river over which the bridge to Spencer Island spans.

For blooming flowers/color we saw native spirea (Spiraea douglasii) and Black Medic (Medicago lupilina). We also saw a lot of berries on the Mt. Ash (Sorbus sitchensis) and the Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa).

The trail for the most part was very quiet. We didn't see anyone for the first hour then the rest of the time we saw a total of 10 people.
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Spencer Island — May 26, 2013 — JimK
Day hike
Issues: Overgrown | Bugs | No water source
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Parking: there's a sign saying no parking beyond here where Smith Island Rd passes under I-5, but if...
Parking: there's a sign saying no parking beyond here where Smith Island Rd passes under I-5, but if you keep going there's the dedicated parking lot past the water treatment plant, as described in driving directions.

The side of the loop triangle farthest from the entrance (SE side of island) is overgrown with tall grass. We got wet because it had rained earlier. Didn't see any nettles.

We didn't see any large birds but enjoyed the variety of birds on different parts of the loop as well as their abundant singing, esp. on the road from parking to bridge.

Mosquitos were out in small quantities.

The tide will change your experience so come back many times!

The smell from the waste treatment plant is worst at the parking lot. Don't worry about it, just don't linger there.
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spencer island Cbig.jpg
Spencer Island. Photo by CBig.
Location
Puget Sound and Islands -- North Sound
Snohomish County
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.6 miles
Highest Point 10 ft
Features
Wildlife
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed on leash
Guidebooks & Maps
Central Cascdes
USGS Everett

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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