Tolt-MacDonald Park

This 575-acre park is one of the few parks that was opened during the Stay-at-Home order in March 2020, and so we would drive there for walks. We were grateful the park was opened because the serenity and the picturesque old-world charm of the place provided a needed respite from being cooped up at home.  

Less than an hour drive from Seattle, the Tolt-MacDonald Park is located at the confluence of the Snoqualmie and Tolt Rivers. It is not a place where tourists normally flock to, but the locals use it regularly, especially during the summer months, for swimming, boating and fishing. It is a watery wonderland.

The 500-foot suspension foot bridge across Snoqualmie River (the river merits a separate post) connects the east and west side of the park.

On the east is the easy three-mile Cottonwood Loop that leads you along a picturesque lake. Here, you are likely to encounter some  wildlife and waterfowl that are common in this area.  The terrain here is mostly flat, with some paths that lead to small beaches and fishing sites.   

Walking through the forest here is akin to what the Japanese term forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, a sort of nature therapy that has two advantages : a nature antidote to all the technology burnout, and connection to and protection of the country’s forests. As you soak in the forest, it is hard not to relax and be mindful that we are only one of many God’s creations.

As the park is so huge, we took different routes each time we come. Sometimes, we  strolled along the Tolt River, sometimes we trekked along the Snoqualmie, sometimes hiked through the forests. Whatever route we took, it is a walk that calms the soul.

The Tolt River is one of the many habitats for salmon here. Hence, there is limited access to some areas of the river to protect the salmon.  During the Fall, this is one of the places you can observe chinook salmon spawning in the river.

What is little known is that the Tolt River watershed provides 30% of the drinking water for over 1 million people in and near Seattle.

On the western side of the bridge is the campground that offers six yurts for rental, furnished with futons, bunk beds, electricity, deck, picnic table and fire ring. Each yurt sleeps up to seven people. During summer, many groups would rent the Yurts and spend a couple of days exploring the area. You can also park your RV here or set up your own tents.

The park was named after John MacDonald, the Boy Scout Council Chief of Seattle, who in 1976 mobilized 20,000 boy scouts to build the facilities you see today. They did this over six weekends. Unfortunately, MacDonald passed away before the project was completed.

Most of the trails here are beyond the campground. We took the two-mile Mossy Way Trail up, which offers some panoramic view of the surrounding. Here you hike past second-growth native forest, lush with western red cedars, bigleaf maples, skinny Douglas firs, and a forest floor filled with sword ferns.  

We saw evidence of both current and past logging activities. This is an area popular with hikers and mountain bikers, as it connects with an extensive network of trails in the adjacent Ames Lake Forest

As technology increasingly become our mainstay in work and studies, it is places like this that root us in who we are, and remind us of a creator far superior that our latest robotic inventions.


Tolt River Watershed – Utilities | n.d. Available at nvironment/our-water-sources/tolt-river-watershed [Accessed 13 August 2020].

Tolt River Natural Area – King County. 2016. Available at ter-and-land/natural-lands/ecological/tolt-river.a spx [Accessed 13 August 2020

Tolt MacDonald Park & Campground in King County, Washington – King County. 2015. Available at on/parks/parks-and-natural-lands/popular-parks/tol tmacdonald.aspx [Accessed 13 August 2020].

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