Length: Almost six miles each way.
Level of difficulty: Level paved (east and west ends of trail) to level to steep dirt/gravel (central portion) trail.
Setting: Part of the same railbed as the Burke-Gilman Trail, this largely paved rails-to-trails walkway can be easily explored in segments. From the Preston trailhead, a level trail follows a forested ridge above the town of Preston, then switchbacks steeply down to cross the Preston-Fall City Road (a huge wooden trestle, now gone, once spanned the river valley). The trail then crosses the Raging River and climbs again to pass through the Lake Alice trailhead, the site of the former Fall City railroad station. From this eastern trailhead, the trail continues 1.8 miles along a mostly level paved path to a long-distance view of Mount Si looming over the Salish Lodge and the top of Snoqualmie Falls.
Highlights: The beautiful forest along the trail offers an unusual variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. Its plants are largely native, but garden escapees (including apple trees along the trail's western end) also thrive along this former railroad bed. The graves of early settlers and natives dating back to the 1800s can be observed in the Fall City cemetery near the Lake Alice trailhead. Know what to do if you sight black bear or cougar; a large bear crossed the trail 60 feet in front of the author on a recent evening walk. For more information on the trail, call 206-296-4232.
Facilities: Toilets at Lake Alice trailhead and at falls overlook.
Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect. Bikes and horses also use the trail.
Directions: From Interstate 90 (heading east or west), take Exit 22, turn north, and at the "T" turn right on Preston-Fall City Road. To park at the western (Preston) trailhead, take the first left in three-tenths mile onto 308th Avenue Southeast and you'll see the trailhead. To park at the Lake Alice trailhead, continue 3.5 miles on Preston-Fall City Road and turn right on Southeast 47th Street, which curves right at the Fall City cemetery to turn into Lake Alice Road. The trailhead is on the right in eight-tenths of a mile.
Cathy McDonald is coauthor with Stephen Whitney of "Nature Walks In and Around Seattle," with photographs by James Hendrickson (The Mountaineers, second edition, 1997).