Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, at the edge of the Seattle metro area, offers river walks and views of Green River Gorge and kayakers.
Where: Kanaskat-Palmer State Park
Location: 32101 Cumberland-Kanaskat Road S.E., Ravensdale
Length: A three-mile loop trail follows the river on three sides and climbs a low plateau on the south; access the trail from the day-use area, near the park entrance, or the campground (connect some segments of the trail via a short walk on paved park roads).
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Level of difficulty: Flat to moderate gravel trails (near the river) and grassy paths (on the plateau)
Setting: This 320-acre state park set in a second-growth forest perches on a gentle plateau surrounded on three sides by two miles of the Green River. Though not far from Maple Valley, you’ll feel like you’re suddenly in the middle of nowhere as you drive to the park past logged slopes and signs warning of wildlife crossings.
Highlights: In this area, the river begins to enter the upper end of the Green River Gorge, and on most weekends, river kayakers may be seen here navigating the Class II through IV rapids (safe for expert whitewater kayakers and rafters only). The flow of water is regulated upstream through Howard Hansen Dam, so stream levels can be subject to change. Winter is a great time to rent a yurt (reservations line: 888-226-7688) and spend some time near the river.
Facilities: Year-round restrooms and camping (including six yurts)
Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect
Directions: From Interstate 405 in Renton, take Highway 169 (Exit 4A northbound, Exit 4 southbound) southeast to Maple Valley. After passing by a giant store under construction, turn left on Southeast Kent-Kangley Road (watch for well-marked signs for Highway 516). You’ll start seeing signs for the park; in 3.5 miles, turn right on Retreat-Kanaskat Road Southeast, then turn right in three miles on Cumberland-Kanaskat Road Southeast. The park is on the right in two miles. Parking requires a Discover Pass: one-day pass: $10, annual pass: $30; buy from park staff (also available by phone, online or from outdoor retailers, where transaction fees apply; 866-320-9933 or www.discoverpass.wa.gov).
For more information: www.parks.wa.gov or 360-886-0148. Print out a trail map from the website (click “Maps/Directions,” then open the .pdf file), or look for it posted at kiosks in the park.
Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, writes about science and nature travel. Contact her: email@example.com.