Follow a loop trail around Oxbow Lake in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River valley, where solitude intersects with calm lake waters, ever-present river murmurs of the Middle Fork, mountain views, and Snoqualmie rainforest. Depending on the season, fall colors, wildflowers, or fresh berries may be present for your enjoyment.
Start the hike from the main Oxbow Loop Trailhead, next to bathrooms and a trail kiosk. The well-surfaced trail will be easy to follow as it arcs to the southwest, affording a sweeping view of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River from atop large clay bluffs. In 0.2 miles, a trail junction is reached, along with a smaller parking area. From here, you can take either path to make a loop hike of 1.5 miles around Oxbow Lake.
Turn left and explore the loop clockwise by descending for 0.3 miles on an old logging road that has been converted to trail, finding a spur trail to the river’s edge. Continuing onward, you will soon reach a large bridge that serves as a viewing platform at the outlet to Oxbow Lake.
The well-maintained trail ascends under a canopy of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, red cedar, bigleaf maple, and alder. Soon, more bluff-top viewpoints are reached, this time with views of Oxbow Lake and the surrounding mountain tops. Though it is tranquil now, one can imagine how the river once coursed through the oxbow.
The trail turns to the northeast and continues on to complete the loop and connect to the trail junction. From there, retrace your steps back to the trailhead parking area the remaining 0.2 miles.
History of the Route
The story of the Oxbow Loop Trail began when the Vashon Glacier pushed its way past Mount Si some 19,000 years ago, forming a great ice dam and a large lake in what we now know as the Middle and South Fork Snoqualmie River Valleys. Melting glaciers sent cascades of frigid water into the lake, depositing copious quantities of stone-ground “glacial flour.”
When the glaciers receded 17,000 years ago, the rivers started cutting through that sediment, which had consolidated into deep layers of clay. From this, the landscape was formed with its meandering watercourses, side channels, and ponds, including what we now call the Oxbow Loop.
The idea for the Oxbow Loop Trail was two decades in the making, and finally became a reality in 2018-2019 in a cooperative construction project undertaken by the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust in partnership with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).