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The Foothills Trail is a 30-mile collection of five unconnected segments of the old Burlington Northern Railway that served the farming, coal-mining, and logging economies near the base of Mount Rainier.
The longest section is a paved trail that rolls for 23 miles between the outskirts of Puyallup to Buckley. Other paved, gravel, and dirt segments are located in Boise, Enumclaw, and Wilkeson. Plans call for connecting all these pieces.
The Northern Pacific Railway Company laid its tracks from Tacoma to the coalfields around Wilkeson in 1877. In 1970, the railroad merged into Burlington Northern, which ceased using the lines in 1982. Two years later, residents began working to create the Foothills Trail.
Puyallup to Buckley
The most popular trail is the Puyallup-Buckley piece. There are five trailheads—East Puyallup, McMillin, Orting, South Prairie, and Buckley—along the 23-mile route, in addition to several other parking locations.
Here, you'll pass through farmland that once produced 60 million daffodil bulbs annually. All that remains of that era is the annual Daffodil Festival, as well as that bloom's depictions on signs and even a sculpture along the route.
From Puyallup, the trail heads south as it follows WA-162 and parallels the Puyallup River. In McMillin, the route crosses the river via a pedestrian bridge. About eight miles south of Puyallup, the City of Orting offers a bike shop, cafés, bakeries, and more.
South of Orting, the trail curves northeast as it begins to follows the Carbon River more closely. Briefly veering away from the trail crosses the Carbon River that runs milky white from a melting glacier on Mount Rainier. The active volcano's white summit is visible most of the way. It's responsible for making this perhaps the only rail-trail posted with lahar warning signs, which direct trail users to head for the hills to escape volcanic mudflow in the event of seismic activity.
A picnic shelter set up by a local roadside coffee stand welcomes trail users to the trailhead in South Prairie From here, the trail continues east through Cascade Junction (unmarked, an old railroad landmark), where a branch may one day extend to connect the isolated pieces to the south that run to Wilkeson and Carbonado.
The route follows the old railroad S-curve (less than 1.5 miles long), which was built to reach the elevation of the Enumclaw Plateau and includes four bridges (one 400 feet long).
Heading northeast through Buckley, the rail-trail passes the Logging Museum with its stadium for the annual logging contests and a historical display of log-industry artifacts. The pavement ends at a use-at-own-risk sign south of town.
This segment comes to end north of Buckley at the White River. A pedestrian bridge is proposed to connect to the next segment of the Foothill Trail that runs from Boise up to Enumclaw, one of many projects being considered for the Foothills Trail.
Wilkeson to Carbonado
Wilkeson, with its old-timey Main Street storefronts, is one of the few surviving towns from the coal-mining era. A 1-mile-long paved trail takes a switchback uphill to a well-maintained dirt singletrack that completes the 4.4-mile journey through the woods to historic Carbonado. Future plans call for pushing the dirt trail past at least one ghost town along the former rail line.
North of town, another singletrack starts at an unmarked trailhead on the left side of 156th Street Court E, about 200 feet west of the intersection with Johns Road E. The dirt trail heads through the narrow valley formed by Wilkeson Creek. With the future development of the Cascade Junction gap, trail users can connect to South Prairie or Buckley.
Two more Foothills Trail sections start in Enumclaw, located in southern King County. One heads north into farmland for 1.9 miles. This starts as a 0.2-mile paved trail and then becomes gravel and later a dirt track running between pasture fence lines. The 2.1-mile southern segment starts east of downtown and heads south toward Buckley on asphalt for 1.2 miles. A soft surface follows, but that becomes impassable before SE Mud Mountain Road. A pedestrian bridge across the White River between Enumclaw and Buckley is just one of many projects being considered for the Foothills Trail.
To reach the East Puyallup trailhead, from the intersection of State Route 167 and SR 410 in Sumner, follow SR 410 east for 1.3 miles. Take the SR 162/Valley Avenue exit toward Orting, and follow SR 162 for 0.5 mile south. Turn right onto 80th Street E. The East Puyallup trailhead is about 1 mile ahead on the right.
To reach the South Prairie trailhead, from the intersection of SR 167 and SR 410 near Sumner, follow SR 410 east. After 5.7 miles, turn right onto S. Prairie Road E. In 4.1 miles, turn right onto Pioneer Way E and look for the South Prairie trailhead sign.
For Buckley access, from the intersection of SR 167 and SR 410 near Sumner, follow SR 410 toward Yakima. After 12.5 miles, you'll arrive in Buckley. Turn right onto Park Avenue, and then turn left onto N. River Road. Look for Buckley Log Show parking on the left.
For the closest access to Cascade Junction, from the intersection of SR 167 and SR 410 near Sumner, follow SR 410 toward Yakima. Go 11.8 miles, and bear right onto SR 165/S. River Road. Look for a gravel parking lot on the right in about 1 mile.
For Wilkeson access, from the intersection of SR 167 and SR 410 near Sumner, follow SR 410 toward Yakima. After 10.7 miles, turn right onto Mundy Loss Road. In 1.2 miles, turn left onto SR 162, and then turn right onto SR 165. Follow SR 165 2.8 miles to the Wilkeson welcome arch, and look for the parking lot on the right.
For Carbonado access, from the intersection of SR 167 and SR 410 near Sumner, follow SR 410 toward Yakima. After 10.7 miles, turn right onto Mundy Loss Road. In 1.2 miles, turn left onto SR 162, and then turn right onto SR 165. Follow SR 165 for 5.1 miles to Pershing Avenue on the right.
For Enumclaw access from Interstate 405 in Renton, take Exit 4 onto SR 169 toward Maple Valley. Follow SR 169 south for 25.5 miles, and turn left onto SR 164/Griffin Avenue in Enumclaw. In three blocks, turn right onto Railroad Street. Public parking is available on either side of the road.
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