This is one fun set of dense trails in the community of Mukilteo. Japanese Gulch has one of the country's steepest railroad grades going from Mulkiteo at the bottom to the Boeing Aircraft Plant at the top. This section of tracks exclusively services Boeing so traffic is not routine. The steep hills on either side of the tracks hold an array of trails at several heights along the hillside. Creek side twisters, narrow benchcuts and ridgetop cruisers can all be found here. During my three week stay in the area, my hotel was located at the top of this trail system so it took all of about two minutes by bike to get in some play time here. The only downside to here is that it does not drain particularly well so it needs a another day or two in comparision to other trails in the area after rains.
Directions: From areas north of Everett - Take I-5 South, take the HWY 526 exit west (towards Mukilteo Ferry), After 3.7 miles and passing the Boeing Plant you will see a Hilton Garden Inn on your left. Hang a right here onto 84th street. Go down the hill for 0.5 miles and hang a right onto Mukilteo Speedway (Highway 525). Go 1.7 miles and just as Possession sounds comes into view, turn right onto 5th Street/West Mulkilteo Blvd. Travel 0.6 miles and just before a bridge pull into the dirt parking lot off the right. You are at the bottom of the trail system.
Maps: Here are a couple of maps of the Japanese Gulch Trail system. The left one is a screen shot from Garmin Mapsource and the picture to the right is an screen shot from Google Earth. Here are the data for files for this area in several formats: GPX, GDB, KML
|Starting from the bottom you can go up either side of the gulch or you can ride along the tracks to the top. This would be a very difficult area to give turn-by-turn directions. Instead just go out and explore. The trails are almost exclusively singletrack with really nice flow. There are also plenty of undulations in the trails so wither you are going up or down the gulch you will get to do some grunting as well as some grinning. It is just a matter of the ratios between the two depending on which direction you are going.|
|For my first time out here I started out climbing up the southside of the gultch on one of the hillside trails. There were quite a few grunting sections as well as some tight turns. It was all good by me as I was digging the loamy soil as well as the greenery. Even though the flora had not broken out of winter mode yet, it was still pretty. I had lots of oppurtunites to take it all in as there were numerous intersections were it was purdent to look around before moving on. I avoided descending too much when faced with the numerous intersections as I made my way up the gulch. There are several trails that short cut between the high trails and the low trails. It was on these short cut trails were I saw the remenants of a few hucker projects. None of them showed much recent use and mother nature was working hard to reclaim them.|
|When I got to the top of the gulch I snooped around a bit before going hitting the trails on the other side. I was quite surprised and stoked to see my hotel. This was just freaking cool to have trails to play on right from the front door on a buisness trip. I soon started down on the north side of the gulch. There were just as many twists, turns an general flowy goodness on this side of the gulch. My daylight was starting to dwindle so I spent less time exploring and more time heading down. I passed a couple of bailout trails were I could have dropped down to the railroad tracks and zipped right down the trailhead. Even with the threat of darkness rising, I was not in enough of a hurry to pass up singletrack. I ended up bobing, weaving and undulating my way back down to the trailhead on proper singletracks and arrived back at the car in the twilight. An afternoon well spent in my book.|
|I returned to the gulch numerous times during my three week stay in the area. This area never got old as you could switch directions and trail sections to provide numerous permutations on rides here. While there are better options in the Seattle area if you have time to do some driving, if you find yourself in the area give this place a shot.|