Federal Way’s West Hylebos Wetlands Park
Hike description: Easy to access, the trail network at West Hylebos Wetlands Park offers opportunities to watch birds, stand at the edge of two small lakes, wander along an extensive boardwalk and experience a piece of Federal Way history.
Despite beingless than a mile from a shopping center, a hospital and other businesses, Hylebos is a surprisingly quiet getaway.
A local history lesson begins at the edge of the parking lot. The Barker Cabin was built in 1883 and is the oldest original building in Federal Way. Early settler John Barker lived in the cabin for seven years with his wife and three children.
Next door is the taller Denny Cabin. Seattle businessman David Denny built the cabin in Seattle in 1889. The structure survived the Great Seattle Fire five weeks after it was finished and went on to serve, at various times, as an office, a school and a tavern. The cabin was moved to Federal Way in 1966. The Federal Way Historical Society moved it to its current location in 1992.
From the Barker Cabin, a wide path leads to the park’s mile of boardwalk. The boardwalk loops through the wetlands and has several places worthy of a stop. The Deep Sink is a bog filled with Flora that died thousands of years ago. Hylebos Creek flows under the boardwalk as it makes its way to Commencement Bay. A sign directs visitors to a 175-foot Sitka spruce.
A pair of short spur trails visit small lakes. The first, found before the boardwalk, is a side trip that adds as much as 0.6 miles to the walk. This potentially muddy (and slippery) section follows the edge of Marlake before ending at the edge of private property. Walkers must return the way they came. Several types of trees are signed along this route.
The second spur trail runs along the boardwalk and visits Brooklake (this section is included in the 1.3-mile total distance of this trail).
Signs warn visitors that the boardwalk can be slippery when it is wet.
Directions: From Interstate 5 in Federal Way, take Exit 142B and travel west on state Route 18 as it becomes 348th Street. After crossing Pacific Highway (state Route 99), continue another half mile to the parking lot. It’s on the left next to the historic cabin.
Difficulty rating: 1 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 1.3.
Elevation gain: Minimal.
Best time of the year: Year-round. Park is open dawn to dusk.
Map: A map is posted at the trailhead.
Pass: Not required.
Also: While there are some slight inclines and one water-carved rut across the trail, the route could be accessible for some with wheelchairs. A portable vault toilet is located at the trailhead. Pets, bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed. Visitors must stay on trails and boardwalks. Several geocaches are located near the trail, according to geocaching.com.