Hike of the week: THE FOOTHILLS TRAIL

Hike description: A wonderful year-round experience, the Foothills Trail is a 12-foot-wide asphalt surface with an accompanying soft shoulder, suitable for hikers, bicycles, rollerblades, equestrians, and runners and other nonmotorized traffic. The trail is essentially flat, with scenery varying from agricultural to urban to near wilderness. The trail extends from Northeast Puyallup to South Prairie and has trailheads at Northeast Puyallup, McMillin, Orting, Crocker and South Prairie. Completed paved sections include 14.4 miles from Meeker to the South Prairie Creek in South Prairie, a separate two-mile section is located within and beyond the City of Buckley, extending southward through forested wetlands, and a 0.6-mile section in Wilkeson. The soft surface equestrian trail is on the shoulder alongside the main paved trail. Travel is adjacent to farmlands, Christmas tree farms, Orting City Park, Carbon River and South Prairie Creek, and is accessible year-round.

This trail is a great venue for midwinter walks, and for family groups with strollers, bikes, tricycles, wagons and skates. Other times of the year, it is a great place for hikers interested in getting back in shape after a period of inactivity because of injury or the crush of our nonhiking responsibilities.

Directions: The Northeast Puyallup Trailhead is on 80th Avenue, east of 134th Street off of Pioneer Avenue. Other trailheads are located off Highway 162 at McMillin, Orting City Park, Crocker and South Prairie.

Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round-trip: 30

Elevation: Minimal

Best time of year: Year-round

Map: Download detailed map at www.piercecountytrails.org/pdfs/trailmap.pdf

Pass: None

Also: This is a multi-use trail, accommodating users going at different rates of speed. Please remember that the trail is adjacent to private property and resist the temptation to trespass. Maps are posted at the trailheads as well as at various Web sites. Maps and other information on the group that has been the driving force behind the trail is at www.piercecountytrails.org, the Web site for The Foothills Rails to Trails Coalition, whose mission is to assist Pierce County communities in the creation and maintenance of a connected system of nonmotorized trails from Mount Rainier to Puget Sound.

Information: www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/abtus/ourorg/parks/foothillstrail.htm

Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.