Once you've found parking and are ready to explore, look over the posted trail map for a general orientation. As in any urban park, you are free to meander on your own. Or, for a more structured experience, the route suggested here will get you to all the most interesting places.
Head up the stairs, gaining about 75 feet. (Several years ago a WTA crew helped construct these stairs to provide a convenient connection between existing park trails and the new Conner Waterfront Park. And yes, that's "Conner" without the "La.")
At the top of the stairs, emerge next to a rustic bandstand with bench seats that's sometimes used as an outdoor performance venue. Farther off to your right is a restroom building and a large picnic shelter building, open on its north side, housing many picnic tables. The shelter has two sinks that may have running water available in case you neglected to fill your water bottle. (These may be seasonal.)
Off to your left, at the top of the stairs, you will note two trails. The one on the right leads slightly uphill to the Rainbow Bridge (see Extending Your Hike below.) The one on the left leads slightly downhill and passes under the bridge. Take that downhill route and follow it past the artistic murals until you come upon a signed hiking trail that crosses your route. Take the left branch of that trail (you will return on the right branch) and follow it downhill to Sherman Street next to a parking area for boat launchers.
Note here the information sign for the Cascadia Marine Trail that encourages regional travel by traditional watercraft. Several campsites here are reserved for folks arriving by canoe or non-motorized sailboat.
To continue, walk east along Sherman Street for one block and come to the trailhead sign you probably noted when you drove past. Follow that trail back uphill into the park, gaining about 100 feet.
At the top of the rise, note off to your left a small knoll flagged with a hiking trail sign. The map indicates this leads to a "Viewpoint," and you can check it out if you like. It's a very short walk to a point that may once have offered a view. But small trees continue to grow and, as of summer 2018, the view is rather minimal.
Return back a few feet and note the ongoing trail heading west, uphill. Follow it around the high point (the true "summit" is occupied by a water tower.)
Where a power line crosses your trail, there is a view out toward the town (another "Viewpoint" on the map.)
Beyond this point, your route switchbacks downhill and passes close to the approach to the Rainbow Bridge. Here, you can either take the obvious shortcut back under the bridge to reach your incoming route. Or you can continue on downhill on the rocky trail to rejoin your incoming route a bit farther down. Either way, return to the head of the stairs and to your trailhead the way you came.
Early in the season (April, May) look for wildflowers such as buttercups, fringecup, avens, salal, and nootka rose. Later in the season (June, July) these will be replaced by goatsbeard and a multitude of somewhat weedy asters (hawksbeard or cat's ear)
During your hike you are likely to see a few squirrels and at least hear the calls of ravens. Sightings of robins and small birds are common.
Extending Your Hike
Crossing the bridge and visiting the tribal park will add about 1.5 miles to your round trip.
The sidewalk across the Rainbow Bridge is rather narrow and is raised about a foot above the road level. There is no safety railing on the road side, and traffic sometimes seems to whiz by very quickly. So watch your step here, particularly if you encounter any hikers coming the other way.
The route across the bridge takes you onto Reservation Road, and you can follow it north to Snee-Oosh Rd, where a right turn will lead you directly into the tribal park (there is no fee.)
At the park, the native plant garden has postings about the many traditional uses Swinomish people found for local plants. Other information boards offer details on the history and traditional lifestyle of native people.
The most dramatic feature of the park is a trio of very large outdoor shelters in the shape of traditional native woven hats. The woodwork in these shelters is outstanding, and each shelter offers another information board about aspects of the traditional lives of native people.
While you are here, note the views in both directions along Swinomish Channel and the views back across the channel to La Conner, looking rather different from this perspective.