This 22.5-mile rail trail follows the abandoned Burlington Northern grade connecting the towns of Sedro Woolley and Concrete, and can be accessed from three trailheads off of the North Cascades Highway.
The trail from Sedro Woolley starts in the fertile farmland of the Skagit Valley to the south of the North Cascades Highway. The route meanders back and forth between the Skagit River and the highway, sometimes closer to the river, other times right next to the highway, but always with scenic views of farmland and foothills. In winter one can see tundra swans and snow geese poking about in the fields. Near Lyman, the trail hugs the banks of the Skagit before the river begins a southerly meander. At Hamilton, users pass near log yards and over backwater sloughs where one can spy blue herons, red-winged blackbirds and kingfishers.
Just east of Hamilton, the trail crosses the North Cascades Highway and continues its travels on the north side of the valley. The bit of elevation gain on the trail occurs here, as the trail ascends to traverse forested slopes above the banks of the Skagit River as it meanders back north. One can spy eagles along the river, or look east to Sauk Mountain and peekaboo views of peaks of the North Cascades.
Near milepost 19 the trail passes through land designated to protect the Skagit River population of the North Cascades elk herd. Here, elk trails crisscross the grade, and Hurn Field, the meadow they call home, is visible below. Shortly thereafter, one comes to a small park recently built by Skagit County Parks. It abuts Challenger Ridge Winery. One can either have a picnic lunch and enjoy the small fish pond or wander down to the winery for such wonders as wood-fired pizza, chowders and wine tasting.
For our FKT purposes, the route goes between the Cascade Trailhead in Sedro-Woolley at Fruitdale and Highway 20, and the Cascade Trailhead in Concrete, by the Concrete Community Center.