Located east of I-5 near the Snohomish/Skagit County Line, the Pilchuck Tree Farm is a popular area for horse riders, hikers, trail runners and even mountain bikers.
The area consists of a variety of logging roads and trails through classic northwest forests; but don't expect 'old growth' as this is of course a Tree Farm.
The roads periodically have signs indicating a road number and a few obvious trails contain sporadic color-coded flagging. Unfortunately there seems to be a real lack of good signage and a complete lack of signage which might help you locate points of interest.
My first visit to the tree farm was mostly just to 'check it out'. Since my time available for this visit was limited with a previous committment, I brought my gps, my trail running shoes and a small hydration pack.
Upon my arrival there were only one or two other cars in the lot and a truck/horse trailer pulled up as I put on my trail runners. I chatted with them a little later... we'll get to that shortly.
With the GPS activated and no signs to 'suggest' any particular route, I started off in a westerly direction on a gravel road that was clearly one of two main routes. The 'other' gravel road heads off to the north toward the Pilchuck Glass School. Both routes were gated, the route toward the school was marked with No Trespassing signs which made my choice even easier.
Without a clue where to go, I just started running west, following the primary road. There was a trail that entered the road from the left, one leaving the road to the right, a spur off the road going straight ahead... lots of choices. None of them signed. It's the wild west! Adventure awaits around every turn... maybe.
My route choices were influenced by stories I had heard about a meadow with Pilchuck Glass Studio structures and a view of Puget Sound. This 'secret jewel' is the real reason Pilchuck Tree Farm was on my list of places to visit. Knowing such a site existed but having no real idea of just WHERE it is located made my route choices become a combination of a) making sure I don't get lost and b) heading toward areas that might provide a meadow with sculptures and views.
The primary road began heading downhill. Down and down and down. More trails off the the right, more off to the left, more spur roads. I was having doubts that I'd find my desired meadow and sculptures along this route.
After about a mile, there was a meadow on the right and looking up the sloped meadow, a number of buildings could be seen - these had to be part of the Pilchuck Glass School campus. No sculptures were noted, but there was a trail to the meadow, but also other trails before and after. Any of them 'might' be the one I wanted. Or not. :(
Eventualy I seemed to be near the bottom of a hill so I took an overgrown spur to the left with hopes I'd find a clearing or at least some views. Found a clearing, not the one I wanted (no sculptures or views) and a flagged trail which went to the left and uphill.
Since I knew my return route had to go up hill and since I knew that the entire area is surrounded by roads and taking a left 'should' head me back in the direction of my car I felt comfortable following this unknown trail as long as it continued generally in the right direction. It did. Whew!
The trail deposited me back on the road I had started out on.
I headed back toward the parking lot with the intent of taking the first trail that I had originally seen, which headed off in the general direction of the Glass School. It seemed logical that the meadow I wanted would be higher on the hill (not lower) and probably between my current location and the Glass School or possibly north or east of the glass school.
As I reached the trail junction, a family on horses came down that very trail and onto the road. Before I could ask them if there was a meadow and scuplture up that way, they asked me if there was a meadow and scultptures from where I had come from. It seems we were looking for the same thing and none of us knew which way to go.
I told them what I had seen. They told me they followed the trail back to the gravel road to the Glass School and turned around because of the No Trespassing signs but they thought they saw the trail continue on the other side of the road.
I decided to retrace their steps to check it out.
Glad I did.
At the Pilchuck Glass School gravel road, the trail does continue and it appears the no trespassing signs are simply intended to keep you from following the road and they aren't intended to stop you from following the trail. So I followed it.
Up and up and up.... eventually reaching the high point on the ridge.
My hopes grew as I ascended higher and higher... great liklihood that the views, meadow and sculpture might be at the high point.
Well... I was wrong. The only thing at the high point is 'downhill'. And trees.
Now out of time, I ran all the way back to the car so as to not be late for my appointment.
Garmin GPS/Topo route showing my entire path.
My Garmin Connect route which shows my running route... except that I walked all the uphill after chatting with the horse folk and then ran down from the high point. The 'straight line' just shows where I turned the device off and back on for mapping the running portions.
The meadow and sculpture will have to wait for another day.
This area is private property and in order to use it you must mail a signed Liability Release form to the Pilchuck Recreation Association. The form is available via the Pilchuck Recreation Association website and must be renewed each calendar year. You can also find out more about the PRA on their website. No permits or fees, just the Liability Release form.
According to the PRA website, the area is closed between Nov 1 and April 1, but some people interpret that to only mean it is closed to horses and that hikers are welcomed all year. Craig Romano commented on this in his Hike Of The Week from March 4, 2011.
Subsequent research online led me to the location of the meadow and sculptures I was looking for. They are located North of the Glass School Campus and I believe there are trails leading there from 'below' via the road I ran on and also from 'above' from the road that led me to the high point. The trail is named 'Monument trail' but it isn't signed.
I found some potentailly useful info via Trimble Outdoors (regarding a mountain bike route). Even better... the write up on Trimble Outdoors includes a link to a downloadable PDF of the Pilchuck Tree Farm trails... showing the lower and upper routes to the sculpture 'monument' meadow.
Good luck on your search. Remember to give the horses a wide berth and adhere to the rules so public access isn't revoked.
Sorry.... not a single photo from this outing.