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Spanning just shy of 224 miles, the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, is one of the longest rail-trail conversions in the United States. The trail passes through remote and sparsely populated areas of Washington state that are rich in wildlife and natural beauty. The trail is also part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, a 1.5 million-acre landscape surrounding I-90 between Seattle and Ellensburg.
Although there are some gaps on the eastern side of the trail, they can be connected via on-road riding for a route totaling 285 miles. However, travelers should note that these on-road connections do not currently have trail signage marking the way.
Anyone traveling the entire length of the trail will experience many landscapes: mountains, dense forests, irrigated farmland, arid scrubland, and the rolling hills of the Palouse region. The route crosses the Cascade Mountains in a 2.3-mile-long, unlit tunnel and traverses numerous canyons and rivers via bridges and trestles that offer spectacular views.
The trail follows the corridor of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. Workers completed the railroad's rugged western mainline that connected Chicago with Seattle and Tacoma in 1909. By 1980, the railroad had ceased operations on the right-of-way. The state acquired most of the corridor and originally named it for John Wayne after a lobbying campaign by outdoorsman Chic Hollenbeck, a big fan of the cowboy actor. Hollenbeck also founded the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association, whose members make an annual trek along the trail by wagon and horseback.
The western segment of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail runs 110 miles between Cedar Falls and the Columbia River. In this section (formerly known as Iron Horse State Park), most of surface comprises well-packed crushed rock, except for the 20 miles of loose sand in the U.S. Army Yakima Training Center. State trailheads are located at Cedar Falls, Twin Falls, Hyak, Easton, South Cle Elum, Thorp, Ellensburg West, Ellensburg East, Kittitas, Army West, and Army East. In this segment, four trailside primitive campsites are also available: two between Cedar Falls and Hyak and two between Hyak and Easton.
The westernmost trailhead is nestled in the Cascade foothills, just 35 miles from downtown Seattle. Beginning near the old Cedar Falls train stop, this 22-mile uphill railroad grade gets the most visitors. From this end of the trail, you can also pick up the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, which follows a northwesterly course for 31.5 miles through several communities that ring the eastern outskirts of Seattle.
As the trail continues, it crosses a half dozen canyons on trestles with sweeping mountain vistas and bores through the 100-year-old tunnel at Snoqualmie Pass to Hyak. Some bicyclists shuttle between Cedar Falls and Hyak to take advantage of a downhill run.
The eastern slope of the Cascades contains sparser vegetation—a product of the dryer climate on this side of the mountains. The trail skirts two lakes—Keechelus and Easton—that store irrigation water for the region. Later, the trail descends the secluded Upper Yakima Canyon, where pedestrians must sign a waiver to enter two tunnels.
The old railroad yard in South Cle Elum, a National Historic Landmark, preserves the history of the Milwaukee Road corridor through a surviving depot and electric substation, as well as through descriptions of the foundations of other buildings.
The trail breaks briefly at historic Ellensburg, which is the largest town on the corridor and home to Central Washington University. Past Kittitas, you'll find another detour for an impassable bridge over Interstate 90. The trail leaves the irrigated agricultural land and enters the drier landscape of the Yakima Training Center, where the trail then drops into the basin carved by the Pacific Northwest's largest river, the Columbia. The 2,200-foot-long Beverly Bridge across the river is closed, however, and travelers need to detour upriver to the crossing at Vantage.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages the eastern segment of the trail between the Columbia River and Lind, and refers to this section as the Milwaukee Corridor. The remainder of the trail from Lind to the Idaho border falls once again to the oversight of Washington State Parks. To experience the trail east of the Columbia River, travelers are required to obtain permits from both the DNR's Southeast Regional Office and Washington State Parks. Follow the links in the Related Content section to find the contact information for these organizations. When the permits are obtained, trail users will receive the combination for the locked gates on the trail route and a map showing on-road detours.
East of the Columbia River, the trail is mostly track ballast and fat-tire bikes are recommended. Beginning in Beverly, trail users return to irrigated farmland and wildlife refuges. In this section of the trail, trailheads are planned for Malden, Rosalia, Pandora, and Tekoa.
Although travelers will encounter some interruptions in the corridor between here and the Idaho border, improvements to the trail experience are actively being worked on by trail advocates. Currently, the longest gaps, which can be circumnavigated via roads, are between Smyrna and Warden, Ralston and Marengo, and Ewan and Kenova.
Due to long distances between some of the towns, visitors are encouraged to carry water and snacks.
This trail is a gateway to the Great American Rail-Trail, a nearly 4,000 mile developing trail that will connect the country from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. Gateway trails represent those iconic trails that make possible the Great American Rail-Trail in each of the states it connects. Learn more at www.greatamericanrailtrail.org
To reach the Cedar Falls trailhead, take I-90 to Exit 32. Head south on 436th Avenue SE/Cedar Falls Road for 4 miles. Pass the Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area entrance, and turn left into the state park.
To reach the trailhead at Tekoa, head south on US 195 from Spokane for 32 miles. Take the State Route 271 S exit, and go 8.5 miles, and then turn left onto SR 27 N/Tekoa Oaksdale Road. In 11.2 miles, the road becomes Ramsey Street in Tekoa. In 0.3 mile, bear left at a T-intersection, and turn right onto Washington Street. The trail is two blocks past Poplar Street.
A Discover Pass, displayed in your motor vehicle, is required at trailheads.
I loved my hike, spent 3 weeks going from Seattle to Ellensburg.
I returned last night from my two-day bike packing trip over the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (The part we rode is also known as Iron Horse State Park) in Washington State. Our ride went from North Bend at the Cedar Falls Trailhead to the Thorp Trailhead. We stopped at Lake Easton State Park to camp. My 31 year old son rode with me and my wife dropped us off at the first trailhead and picked us up at our final trailhead. She also served as support, meeting us at the campground when our first day was done.
First day was a 40 mile ride approx. My GPS app did not function properly either day because of the four tunnels we passed through. The second day, after we cleared the tunnel MapMyRide told me I had just gone 1650 miles per hour!
The first 22 miles of the ride was a constant but not terrible climb. We stopped to walk a few times because my son, who is an experienced and well conditioned hiker, but not a cyclist, just got wore out from the constant uphill. I think I could have made the climb if I had been with a rider who could also make it and who would have encouraged me to keep on. I am certain I would not have made it without walking if I had been alone.
Once clearing the tunnel at the summit we camp quickly to Hyak rest stop. This is the only place on the trail where there is fresh water. non potable water is available almost constantly along the trail if you have a water filter with you. Upgraded pit toilets are situated frequently along the trail.
The trail between Hyak (the summit) and Lake Easton State Park feels mostly flat but was challenging - especially for my son) after making the climb. We arrived at Lake Easton State park 8 hrs and 30 minutes after beginning our day. The signs on the trail for the State park will lead you four miles off the trail onto the opposite end of the park from Bicycle camping sites (I think there are only two designated for bicycle camping) but it is mostly downhill. Sort of nice after the long day. The bicycle camping sites are not on the lake. We wished they had been. I chose to stay at Lake Easton State Park because I have experience camping at state parks. There are, however, back country camping sites all along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Almost every site has a pit toilet and non potable water in the form of a pond or stream nearby. My wife met us at the park with ice cold drinks and lots of water. We determined that we would have her return the next morning at carry our camping gear with her. It would have been a good idea to have had her deliver them to us at the campsite. That way we would not have had to pack them up the mountain! On the other hand, we would not have had them had we chosen to stay in one of the back country sites. At the very least she could have given them to us at Hyak and saved us packing them during the steps part of the trip. Live and learn.
Tent camping is hard on this old body. It was so hot I could not sleep well and began having leg cramps. I had to get up at 1:30 AM and do about an hour of stretching to get them to settle down!
Second day we rode out of the State Park, at 7:30 AM, to the small town of Easton, just one mile from the bicycle camping area. We got a coffee at the Hitching Post - a small convenience store, service station, restaurant, motel. The trail runs alongside Easton and we were on our way. Thirteen miles to Cle Elum, it was hot. My wife met us there and refilled our water. Just eighteen miles left to Thorp.
The ride from Cle Elum to Thorp is beautiful as it follows along the Yakima River. We watched a guided fly fishing group float alongside us from a few moments. It was cooler than I expected and with many more trees than I imagined.
Thorp TrailHead was a bit confusing to find for my wife tp pick us up. But it is only a mile or so from the Fruit stand/Antique Store at the Thorp exit.
Great scenery. Encountered snow east of Hyak. Knobby tires recommended
We started in Cedar Falls and made it to Lake Easton State Park the first day, where we camped. Our bicycles were fully loaded, and by the time we got to the Snoqualmie Tunnel we were very tired of the uphill grind. The grade is never difficult, and you barely notice it, but after 20 miles your body is feeling it. There was a shortish patch between the tunnel and Lake Easton where the gravel was loose, which made the biking a bit difficult, but all in all it was pretty great. It was a 40-mile day, and there were lots of wilderness camping spots along the way. If we had known how long it would take us to do those 40 miles (about 8-9 hours), we might have chosen to camp at one of the wilderness spots.
At Lake Easton, we took one of the hiker-biker sites for $12.00. There are
two: #36 and #37. We were assigned #36, which is quite small. The other site (#37) is roomier.
The next day we biked 15 miles to Cle Elum, where we ended our ride. The first five miles out of the campground at Lake Easton were excruciating. It appeared that new gravel had been dumped on the trail for those five miles, and it was slow going and a bit scary for one of our friends who was clipped in. But once we got past that point, it was back to being a very pleasant ride.
My recommendation: Switch to flat pedals for this ride. You don't need to be clipped in!
We rode the whole trail from the Idaho border to Cedar Falls in 2016. It is not true that "145 miles" of the trail are closed. There are some detours due to missing trestles, a section of live rail, and short sections of private land. There are no plans to close the trail through the Yakima Training Center. The JWPT is a great way to explore Washington's geography and history through areas not seen from a car. We passed through without any disruption or trespass, and with barely any notice, although we did meet some very friendly people along the trail. We only left behind money we spent in small towns along the way, including those on the detours. For more accurate information go to www.johnwaynepioneertrail.org.
There is over 145 miles of this trail that is closed. When trespassing it I is a 400.00 fine. Also you must contact the owners to cross miles of private land that is owned out right. I do know the owners and they are tried of all the trespassing. So they closed their land. Also waiting for the army to close more near the range on base.
Did this trail as part of a Bicycle Adventures supported ride with 4 others in August of 2016. The scenery is beautiful but it is a jolting tough ride. Further along it does get better and it did help that we started at the top of the mountain and rode down hill. Uphill would require some serious thigh muscles. There is a tunnel along the trail and it is very cold (50 degrees F) and very dark. We had lights on the front and back of several of our bikes and it was still disorienting. This tunnel and the whole trail is best done in a group with lots of spare tubes!
Here's a website describing our experience. https://sites.google.com/site/ironhorsetrailride2016/home
I Rode solo East from Rattlesnake Lake on Sept 15 headed for Cle Elum for the night. When I first entered the trail at Cedar Falls Trail head the first thing that I noticed was this was not the beginning of the line. There was trail behind me at the entry point! This would have to be explored another day. As I headed up the trail towards the Snowqualmie tunnel I observed mostly packed gravel. About every 5 miles there was a pit toilet building and a picnic table nearby. Sometimes a leveled area marked by 4x4s for a tent was included. Later I observed these amenities continued all the way to Ellensburg though the spacing seemed to be less frequent after Cle Elum. The park map would be the best source of these locations. I encountered maybe 12 people between trail head and Snowqualmie tunnel mostly hikers. Since I had traveled the tunnel from Hyak once before I knew to bring a headlamp for the darkness and warm clothes for the cold. Once through the tunnel the climate seemed different, warmer and a bit drier. Trail composition become that of looser gravel so that my hard tailed mountain bike seemed to float around as I moved forward. Some might find this unnerving but I was able to adapt by keeping my speed up. This surface condition continued all the way to Kittitas (when on the trail). I spent the night at a motel in Eastern Cle Elum. I might have stayed further west if I had known that I would have to backtrack to get back on the trail but then I would not have seen the rest of rather interesting town if I had stayed west.
On day 2 entered a beautiful canyon along Yakima river. I encountered two cattle on the trail that seemed to be lost (near turkey gulch). Next I came to the tunnel with the waiver sign but no forms in the form box. A few had written names on the box itself. I assumed that this was no longer important or there would still be forms available, right?. The next tunnel did not ask for a waiver - recently fixed? It appeared to have been worked on. I Only saw a few people on the trail from here to the detour past Kittitas. Cyclists wanting to go further east should know that while there is a detour sign at Prater road, The trail is closed all the way to the other side of the Columbia River (unless your choose to ride the 3 miles to the first closed trestle over I90 and backtrack). One might as well go from here to Vantage on the road in order to get to the next open part of the trail. My ride ended in Vantage. I was driven down to Beverly Junction just to see the trestle and check the trail conditions. What I found was a barbed wire fence between the road and the JWPT. I had read about sand on the trail so wanted to actually set foot on to check the condition. What I found was harder trail here than what I had left (I slipped thru the barbed wire). Had being unused allowed the trail to harden or was the sandy section elsewhere between here and Renslow? Some other lucky person will have to find out the answer to that question! Great ride!
My son and I have been on two segments for a total of about 60 miles from Easton toward Seattle. Scenery=A+Difficulty=EasyTrail Condition=3 on a scale from 0 to 5, 5 being new and paved. Trail tires are a big plus here. Lots of loose gravel. The tunnel near lake Kachess is a great experience. great for nature and site seeing or picnicing form hiking/biking. There were a couple of very small and rustic remote camp sires as well. highly recommend this trail. it is flat in general. A bit of a down slope headed east to west. There are no services other than the occasional pit toilet. Very family friendly.
I have ridden this trail countless times between Rattlesnake Lake and Lake Easton. The Snoqualmie Tunnel (open May-Oct every year, closed in winter) is one of our favorite places to take visiting friends/relatives.
Best route for young/inexperienced riders: when the tunnel is open, have a friend drop you off at the Hyak trailhead and ride down to Rattlesnake Lake (18 miles of downhill riding, 1-2% downhill grade). While you are riding the trail your driver can climb Rattlesnake Ledge (2 miles one-way, ~1800' of climbing) to what is becoming one of the most popular hiking trails in Washington State.
One of these days my son and I will ride across the entire state on this trail- rideacrosswashington.com
Started out fairly early (9 am) Saturday, Sept. 26 from the west trail head near Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area. Had the good fortune of clear, crisp autumn weather for the ride east and were treated to gorgeous fall colors on the ascent, with vine maple and other foliage in full array. Traffic along the trail was moderate and condition good.
Some fresh gravel on a 5-6 mile stretch east of the Snoqualmie tunnel made bike handling somewhat dicey, but but gearing down and pedaling at a higher cadence made it tolerable. Lake Keechelus makes a good stopping point for lunch, if you are doing this distance.
Spent the night at the Iron Horse Inn Bed & Breakfats, just a stones throw form the trail in South Cle Elum. Nice place and filled with historical memorabilia from the days when the Milwuakee Railroad ruled the right-of-way.
The Sunday return was made special by a romp of river otters playing in a creek along the trail.
Definitely looking forward to more rides on this great trail.
On 9-12-15, my 52nd birthday, my husband and I did the Cle Elum to Thorp leg of the Iron Horse-John Wayne trail. Starting in Cle Elum it is just shy of 19 miles. The gravel is really thick and makes it harder to ride. Usually I like to start on the uphill side of the trail but did not on this trip. Big mistake. We rode to Thorp just fine but it was 1:00 by time we got there. Heat of the day. We ate our lunch at the trail head. Nothing there except a pit toilet and a picnic table right dab in the sun. Heading back to Cle Elum was exhausting. The heat got to me so we had to make several stops in the beginning. At one point I sat in the entrance of Tunnel 47 to cool off and we poured water over my head. I really thought we were going to have call 911 but I soldiered on and just peddled slowly. Finally it cooled down a little. Of course, we were riding uphill against the wind. 2+% grade doesn't sound like much until you are riding it for miles. We only passed a few other riders the whole day. We did it, we finished it and felt like we accomplished something in the end. Next leg Thorp to Yakima.
We started at 10am and it wasn't bad the first 5 miles ! The 2% grade wasn't bad but prepare your self cause it's 18+ miles to the top !!! I cramped up a lot ( again if ur a beginner prepare ) but I walked it off and kept going made it to the top rested and then went through a 2.2 mile tunnel it was cool then rode down to Easton WA ended my day at 8:30 pm
On Saturday Sept 5, 2015, two other riders and I rode from Hyack parking lot to Vantage via the JWT. The trail is now wide open all the way to the Columbia River. Other than some freshly laid sand/gravel combo on a 4 mile stretch from Hyack towards Easton, the trail was in excellent shape. Army West to the Boylston Tunnel (4.5 miles) is soft sandy soil pocked with horse hoof marks and is difficult riding. The tunnel has quite a few rocks in the road so a light on your bike is advised. The east side of the tunnel has heavy small tree growth that has not been trimmed making it a bit difficult but not impossible. The tunnel is open in spite of a sign that says it is closed. We believe it is an old "closed" sign. There is an option to bypass the tunnel with a road to the right of the entrance to the tunnel. The ride down to the Columbia River is easy and gently sloped. Advise using wider tires on a mountain bike through this area. Great scenery and the weather was just right. We saw deer and a very large owl near Boylston Tunnel.
I rode the section from Hyak to Easton and back recently (end of August 2015), and found that they'd applied a lot of crushed rock to the trail surface from about 1 mile past Hyak down to Stampede Pass Road, past the end of Lake Keechelus, where they seem to have run out of gravel (for the time being, anyway). East of that, it reverts to the previous hard dirt and light gravel, which is much nicer to ride on. I don't know who thought a 2"+ thick layer of gravel on the trail would be a good surface for bicycles, but it basically ruined the trail, IMO. It takes twice as much effort to push and plow through these areas as otherwise, while your wheels spin and slide in the gravel drifts. My tires are hybrid Drifters, but I can't imagine knobby tires would fare much better. It was obvious that many riders had been riding on the edges of the road, trying to avoid the worst areas. It will probably take years for this to break down, get compacted into the soil, or somehow get mitigated by time (if at all). I think they should bring a grater up and remove all that, personally. Until that time, I will not be riding it. I left a critical message at the Lake Easton Iron Horse Trail line, with the hopes they will think twice before doing this again.
Otherwise I love the trail, but the hard dirt trail surface is better for bicycles. Applying thick gravel as a way of filling ruts and potholes is not a good trade-off, IMO!
I rode the John Wayne/Iron Horse Trail east from Rattlesnake Lake trailhead starting August 8th,2015 and linked up four days later with Columbia Plateau Trail/Fish Lake Trail via the junction just west of Paxton,WA. It's another roughly 60 miles to Spokane (40 to Cheney). As of August 2015, the JWPT trail is in much the same condition as TL user "mbcallawa" described in his excellent review from August 2014.
About me: I am 34, male, in decent but not crazy good shape. I did not train for the ride, but I had spent all summer working outdoors painting houses so am accustomed to long hours in the heat. I wore a broad-rim straw sun hat, which was a great idea I stole from Pat S of 26inchslicks.blogspot.com, and I highly recommend it.
I will note that the fatbike was almost certainly overkill. I experience no flat tires or slow leaks. Probably the huge tires (thoroughly slimed) had something to do with that, but I believe a mountain bike would do just fine for the entire length of the trail, as it is sandy and rocky, but thats what mountain bikes are made for. Indeed, the snails pace forced by the large tires was a source of constant frustration. I averaged around 7 - 10 mph, desptite an easy grade of less than 2% (not including the steeper hills on the numerous detours).
Beverly bridge is still padlocked. As it caught fire last summer, I would not recomend risking your life attempted to cross it. I rode the 15 mile Detour north to Vantage I90 bridge and back south to Beverly where you can immediately hop back on the trail. I camped in Vantage, and crossed the bridge in the morning around 9am after early morning commuter traffic seemed to die down.
At Beverly I could not find the smoothie shop alluded to by "mbcallawa," though I did rided down hwy 243 to the 76 station and ordered a breakfast burrito and a bunch of Aspirin. The trail from Beverly is good riding surface all the way to Smyrna. Lower Crab creek is the most beautiful section of the ride so far. A riparian area, it is a lush oasis in the desert, even in the throes of August. At Smyrna I got onto Lower Crab Creek Rd heeding mbcallawa's warning of puncture vines (goatheads). Soon after Smyrna (and clear to Othello) the trail is unrideable anyhow due to the ties have not been torn up yet. I think the tracks are still on some of it as well). I stayed on Crab Creek RD when it becomes gravel, avoiding the State-reccomended hwy 26 detour. This was wise as I didnt see a single car on this isolated back road, plus it parallels the old track which you can spot carved into the side of the barren Saddle Mountains, the signal lights still standing in places, a real ghost railroad. Bring lots of water as there are no services from Beverly to Othello. Due to the last-minute planning of my ride, I could not procure the gate combos in time. Foolishly I assumed it couldn't be that hard to lift my bike over gates. I was wrong, the gates are tall and many - at least a dozen, or possibly closer to two dozen locked gates with barbwire fences running up flush to either side. there is no u have to unload bags and reload every time, although some are mercifully just latched, and a couple are just a bar that you can easily wheel a bike under but that will block a vehicle (what a concept). From Othello I rode shoulders of 26 and 17 and finally 117 into Warden, although Pat S. rode along the big canal, which in hindsight I wish I would have at least attempted as it goes straight into Warden avoiding the need to ride hwy 117.
There are no motels in Warden, or not that any local would recommend staying in, so I was told by a cashier at Warden's only store (Town and Country) that I could camp in the mormon church lawn. The sprinklers came on at midnight and so I moved next door to the High School athletic field. The trail out of Warden begins with dodging patches of Goathead vines! The cuts are still packed full of huge tumbleweeds. I opted to just plow right through, a task the fatbike made quick work of. The trail parallels Warden-Lind Road for awhile before veering off into some serious desolate terrain. Past Lind the trail is bumpy but rideable clear to Ralston, although I hopped on and off the paved road because I was miserably bored and hot, and the silence of riding pavement versus the constant loud crunch of gravel was a welcome change.
In Ralston the park has water but as far as I could tell its just the kind of pump handle thing that you lift up and it comes gushing out (very cold though!). It's located out close to the side of the road in front of the shady Memorial Park. This is a great place to have a snack/nap break.
I rode the Trail from Ralston to the cliff at Cow Creek where I can confirm that the tresle really is missing. So follow the signeage at Ralston trail head and go only 5 miles till you hit the unpaved "county-maintained road" which is unmarked, but its right after a long, low cut, and you'll hang a right and bomb down the hill, then hang a right at the fence and make for what looks like a dead-end into that farm, but you ride right through it and keep going until the next farm down the road, then hang a left, and in a minute you'll see the JWPT overpass an existing railroad (this is BNSF), and you'll also see the grain silos poking out above the other side of the raised JWPT trailbed. Thats Marengo. I hear the old lady who lives on the farm will let you fill up with her hose water if you ask. Also, grain silos supposedly all have potable water, though I have not tried that out. I made the mistake of not filling up here and ran out of water that night at the junction with CPT/Fish Lake Trail.
At the junction/overpass I hauled my bike and gear up the steep hillside and discovered a sudden change in the trail substrate, after four days on the John Wayne I discovered what the term "rail ballast" really meant. As it was dusk, and I'd been on the road for 13 hours, I made camp there at the isolated cross roads of two dead railroads for this, the final night of my ride. Despite the sharp bed, I slept, ahem...like a rock.
I rose At dawn and continued as this was forecast to be the hottest day, with temps expected to exceed 105 degrees. Plus, It would also prove to be the worst riding surface of the entire trip - pure, unmediated rail ballast ranging in size from 2 to 4, even 5 inch chunks. I rode till Lamont was in sight and bailed off the Trail onto smooth gravel of Lamont-Revere Rd to avoid the ballast. In Lamont I wound around the streets of the seemingly deserted town and finally found water at the tiny "Bug Tussle Park"located behind the "community center." It is a pump-handle spigot affair here too, but wonderfully cold. I soaked my t-shirt and hat and drank till I nearly puked. As The teeth chattering, knee destroying rock ballast continues all the way to Cree Rd, where it becomes pretty much just sand, I opted to take It finally becomes good rideable gravel/sand mix at Martin Road Trailhead, where you are welcomed back to civilization by an outhouse, info signs, a parking lot, and, wonderfully, an honest-to-god unlocked and open gate. At Amber lake I popped down to the boat ramp and skinny dipped, diving deep and allowing my body temp to cool down. The end of the ride was approaching and I did not want to be in a rush. It would be a long time until I would be able to do another trip like this! Soon I entered Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, riding among dozens of bright yellow birds darting around me. They too were migrating home.
Reviewers have thoroughly documented that the portion east of Columbia river is the most challenging stretch, and I can confirm that is is particularly, and brutally so now in the height of summertime: there is the constant sun, rattlesnakes (though I saw nor heard not a one), non-maintained/non-improved trail surfaces, not to mention the many gates,puncture vines, and lack of towns/ services. This is what the rail trail guides mean when they suggest that only masochists would ride JWT east of the river. That said, this is the land I am from, and it holds a strange power over me, and I much preferred it to the well-trod, and much more popular Cascade portion. It is a fact that I saw not a single other cyclist on the trail from Cle Elum until Cheney. Thats four days alone on a rail-trail, with only the wildlife (even in August I saw buck, doe, rabbits, coyote, hawk, and raptors) and the unblinking sun to accompany me. It was an amazing, transcendent experience that I will never forget. Also, my sore knees will not let me. But it was so worth it. Happy Trails!
Horrid conditions from Tekoa West, the first few miles was passable but after that the grass was 7 feet tall and way to thick to ride through, you could not see the ground and was impossible to cross. Very disappointed after a 3 hour drive to get there. At least mow the grass, come on folks.
Our plan has been to ride the entire trail, and so far have gone from Rattlesnake to Easton for a day ride, that was an Awesome ride, can't get any better. Have done it a couple times actually and have made it one of our annual have to ride rides, lol. but the East part was very sad for me. Why even call it a trail if you can't ride it? and we ride some pretty tough trails.
We recently rode by bike the trail from Hyak to Rattlesnake Lake. As an inducement to get all the people to come, here is my description of the ride. After we finished the ride, all wanted to know....what John Wayne had to do with this trail?
High in the mountains lies a tunnel.....that is so long you'd think you got lost when you get started. It begins at Hyak, which, is a Chinook Indian word meaning "Very Fast". The tunnel was closed for several years, for fear that a rock or two would crash down on some unsuspecting cyclist. But they finally reinforced the ceiling with concrete, and reopened the tunnel. So now only some concrete will crash down on some unsuspecting cyclist. You may go "Hyak" in your rush to get through the tunnel without something coming down on your head.
Then after an eternity you spot a light at the end of the tunnel. It opens up to a slope, so steep up and down, that your only hope of getting to Rattlesnake Lake is to follow the same path that the Milwaukee Electric Railroad did. Imagine that, a railroad that was electric, built just after the turn of the century. Sounds like something out of the future. A smokeless and carbon free train. With such futuristic trains, that were also cheaper to run, it's hard to see how the Milwaukee Railroad is no longer around. They were so excited about their cool trains with electric engines, that they paid huge dividends to their shareholders. When it came time to improve and replace the aging tracks.....they had no money in the coffers to do so. They went bankrupt in 1981. So down you go.....looking for the end of the trail.....and hoping you'll not find the same end.....that the Milwaukee Railroad did.
The railroad trail and the tunnel were built by the Chinese, and it puts you in awe just looking at it. How did they do it? Wong Fu says the Great Wall of China took 276 years to finish. Compared to that, he says, the railroad trail and tunnel were a snap. Ahhhh Soooo......Wong Fu.
General McClellan could have used the Chinese to build a tunnel for him, in his misguided search for a way across the mountains about 70 years earlier. He reported to the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, that there was no way to get across. Later McClellan would be replaced as leader of the Union Army.... so we could defeat Jefferson Davis and the Confederates. After the war he then ran for President of the United States, and was thoroughly trounced. Which goes to prove, you can fool the American people once, you can fool them twice, but don't try it a third time.
And then you arrive at the first bridge....high and magnificent. The superstructure rising far below from the valley, was made out of iron. It must have been another first, not using wood. Those Chinese are so clever.
There are one, two, three and finally the fourth bridge which was missing part of it's span for about 20 years, until the trail people rebuilt it. From one of the bridges you can see Tinkham Road, named after Abiel Tinkham, who was the first to find a way across the mountains. And from another bridge you can see McClellan Butte, named for the guy who didn't. Abiel Tinkham named two higher peaks near Snoqualmie Pass, Abiel Peak and Tinkham Peak, after himself. I suppose you can do that when your the first guy to get over the mountains. But actually the Yakima Indians, who for centuries had traipsed across the mountains to trade with the Indians on the West side, were the first to cross the pass. Tinkham was just smart enough to ask the Yakima Indians if they would show him the way, where McClellan never bothered to ask. So if truth is to be told, those two Peaks, Abiel and Tinkham, should be named Yakima and Indian.
And just when you think you are done with bridges, there is a multitude of smaller bridges spanning ever smaller dips in the trail. When there aren't any bridges the Chinese filled in the gaps with huge amounts of rock and dirt, so it seems you are riding on thin air. And all the while you wonder.......how did the Chinese ever get this trail and tunnel built?
The Tunnel and the ride down the John Wayne Trail, (was he here too?), are the Ride of the Century. John Wayne died in 1979, and the trains stopped running through the tunnel in 1980. So John would have no way of knowing about a trail that didn't exist upon his death. I think it would be better to name the trail after a person who had some historical significance to the area. The trail should be named The Abiel Tinkham Trail. But few people have heard of Abiel Tinkham, and everybody loves John Wayne, so there you go.
You wouldn't want to miss the ride. It's all down hill. Invite your friends and significant other. We are meeting at Rattlesnake Lake on Saturday, June 6th at 10:00 am. We'll leave a few cars there, and then travel to Hyak to start the ride.
Meet Place and Time: Rattlesnake Lake at 10:00 o'clock on Saturday, June 6th.
ecousin, regarding your statement:
"Maybe the Bridge builders in the Army could practice rebuilding the burned down trestles with permanent structures. If you are going to dream you might as well dream big!"
It looks like that's pretty much what has happened:
This trail is so wonderful and amazing potential to someday create a cross country non-motorized trail system. In the mean time I rode with my good friend Army West to Army East (traveling east obviously) this is the direction to travel the trail due to elevation drop after Boylston Tunnel. I am saddened to report that my last ride was Summer 2013 and now winter 2014 many short trestles have been destroyed by a wild fire. My guess is 7 of 9. They create a small detour, but this section is so much fun it will not ruin the trip. We rode Sunday the 28th of December 2014 starting at 12:15 and berly making it back to our car at Army East before complete darkness at 4:30. I love this section of trail. It is desolate we saw Automobiles on the I90 until our truck was out of site (2 or 3 miles) and then no humans, 1 bird of Pray, and 1 bird diving over an amazing fill (Instead of a trestle). Of course it is December and I hope intelligent animals are burrowing and hibernating. As for us we rocked the trail. It was a welcome site to make it to our vehicle and after leaving it started raining. Life doesn't get better and Cheeseburger at the Time out Tavern in Kittitas topped off the trip. Thank you Yakima Firing Range for your allowance for bikers and horse rider’s use for this trail (Many horse prints). Maybe the Bridge builders in the Army could practice rebuilding the burned down trestles with permanent structures. If you are going to dream you might as well dream big!
Rode this trail west to east. Rattlesnake to Ellensburg is sublime. The climb to Snoqualmie Pass is only about 1.7 percent. You will hardly notice you are going up constantly through beautiful mossy woods. The noise from I 90 is kind of annoying, even though it runs deep in the valley below. Several curved trestles and a reconstructed snow shed add to the interest. Beautiful wild camping grounds on both sides of the pass with tent platforms and pit toilet, but you must filter water from nearby streams. Snoqualmie tunnel is 2.3 miles long, so a good headlight is essential. The tunnel took 700 men five years to complete. Spooky but rideable inside. Cle Elum has an interesting depot and an abandoned substation for the electric locos, motels, restaurants, etc. and makes a good rest stop or overnight, as the official camp grounds cease just below the eastern Snoqualmie portal. A couple more tunnels before you get to Ellensburg are fairly short, but you still need a light. There are some silly waivers you are supposed to sign that you are entering the tunnels at your own risk, but there are no waivers to be had. Better than keeping them closed as they used to do, however. Countryside descends to a much drier and warmer setting. Bring water! Also the trail surface, never pristine as in other rail trails (KATY trail comes to mind as a great non paved trail), becomes more primitive as you go east. Crushed rock becomes gravel in places, an omen of the trials ahead.
From Ellensburg, the trail was closed due to fire damage on the Yakima Training Center, so I rode a very beautiful paved highway over Rye Grass summit where a large wind turbine farm is, to Vantage, and the I 90 bridge. If you get to ride through the YTC, you must back track to Vantage anyway, as this is the only Columbia River crossing. The bridge has 4 lanes but no shoulders on the main span. Be visible and claim your lane. People were pretty polite, but one a- hole just had to honk, an idiot pulling a fifth wheel.
Take the right turn and climb over a summit to Beverly, which has a gas station cum store with a coffee and smoothie bar, don't miss this stop as you will enter some very wild country to get to Othello. Follow signs for Crab Creek road, a bit north of the gas station. The old RR trestle across the Columbia is here but closed off, a shame. Crab Creek road starts out paved, parallel to the rail trail. As soon as you can, take a side road over to the trail. This section is one of the prettiest sections east of the Columbia. It is overgrown with cat tails and wildflowers, but the surface is very rideable. When you come to the section (Smyrna) where there are houses and a road, with an electric cattle fence, TAKE THE ROAD! The trail at this short section is overrun with puncture vines which will flat your tires. Slime is no match. I use FLAT ATTACK available on line and did not experience any air leaks, but a friend who used Slime was plagued with leaks on his east to west trip. A paved road will parallel the trail. When it turns north, rejoin Crab Creek road, marked Primitive Road, if you want the scenic way. The official detour is to follow the pavement to 26 and thence to Othello, motels and a Walmart.
North on a paved road to Warden where the trail starts again, and you soon find out how challenging the JWPT really is. The surface is soft and sandy, gravel (as in RR ballast size), and sometimes the cuts are filled with tumble weeds. A fat bike would not be overkill along the rest of the eastern trail. Fortunately, there is an excellent, paved, shouldered, highway with almost zero traffic in case you get sick of your fillings being rattled. You can play peekaboo with the trail from Warden to Lind to Ralston by riding highway or trail. But nothing is free. The paved roads can be very steeply hilly. This is expedition-remote country to be bike touring, and not for beginners. Warden has a motel and store, Lind has a store, and Ralston has a small memorial park with water, but no supplies.
At Ralston you have to detour around impassable Cow Creek crossing to get to Marengo. Head south, and turn east on Benge Road. Ride EXACLY 7.2 miles to a left turn. It looks like a locked gate and a nothing two track but it isn't. The ranchers camouflage these gates to keep people out. I made the mistake of disbelieving Google Maps, and ended up miles off course. BTW there is almost no cell phone coverage out here when you need it most. Write down or print your turn by turns. The two track leads to Marengo where there is nothing but some welcome shade behind a silo.
From here for many miles the JWPT does NOT have a bailout road, and the surface is diabolical in places. You have to commit to ride it. Did I say bring lots of water from Ralston? Washington DNR controls everything east of the Columbia and you must apply for a permit. DO NOT FORGET TO ASK FOR THE LOCK COMBINATIONS for the many locked gates from here on. I bailed to the road out of Lind at a locked gate, but out here you have to unpack and lift everything over the gate as I did because DNR failed to tell me anything about this when I applied from out of state! At Ewan the trail appears to continue behind a grain elevator, but it leads to a cliff. Take Rock Lake road instead. The trail takes off the other side of the cliff. I finally met a cyclist who told me the combination, but I had lifted over one gate already. This section is the most scenic of the entire trail IMO. But there are a couple of hike a bike sections over rock falls. Pine City, Malden, and Rosalia come in rapid succession, but the gravel grinding does not get easier. Some overgrown sections have hidden square rocks that will hurt you if you ride too fast. A swarm off yellow jackets stung me several times. They were nesting in the hollow gate tubes.
At Rosalia I booked on the highway for Plummer, ID to ride the paved Coeur D'Alene rail trail, but I doubt it got any smoother. The hills on the pavement were especially steep. And it was 100 degrees in the shade.
This is an EPIC ride, but requires steely determination and commitment. A pleasure ride it is not (except the western half), but your bragging stock will rise considerably, and your rewards for having overcome this gnarly beast will stay with you.
This last summer my friend ecousin, his brother in law Dan and I rode from Rattlesnake Lake to the Columbia River in three painful days. We are all in our 40's, underexercised, and hit the ground rolling.
The cascades in mid July are a feast of smells, sights, and flavor. Salmon berries, larkspur and snow capped peaks distract from the insanity of I-90 in the valley below. I remember being very nervous of my stamina as ecousins mom drove us up to our starting point. Would I be able to complete even one 40 mile day? How would I feel the next day as I arose to the sun? As it turns out...not as bad as I expected.
Close to Seattle this trail is well maintained, and offers many services (primative). City money certainly makes a huge difference as we found out from our journey east. Our first 20 miles rolled along seamlessly through cool cascade dappled light. On this section there are many trestles and more frequent escape routes. There are excellent tent pads and toilets. I'll call the first part of our journey easy, even if I was tired and out of shape.
Snoqualmie Pass. We took a quick break before entering the 2.3 mile tunnel that quite honestly could not have been more refreshing on a hot July day. One thing I found strange is that looking East through the tunnel you can see light at the other end, looking West I could not. Anyhow, the tunnel was a marvel of engineering. At this point we not only crossed the Pacific Crest underground, but the phrase "standing on the shoulders of giants" made a lot more sense. The folks who built our country were far better people than myself.
Back in the daylight on the East side of Washington, we watched the flora slowly change. Driving in a car across the cascades is probably more dramatic as the Fir trees give way to grass in a matter of minutes, but a bicycle allows you to smell the change, perhaps absorb it with a sixth sense.
The gravel conditions began to deteriorate a touch East of the tunnel, but remained decent relative to what was ahead of us. We soon got our first taste of commitment with a long stretch on the South edge of Keechelus Lake. No escape routes here, but we did see some remaining wreckage of the train accident that ended the Milwaukee Road as a serviceable rail line.
Several more dusty miles later we encountered ecousins mom and the kids out on a bike ride on the Iron horse from our campsite at Easton lake. My creaky knees managed to park my old bike "Carmen" next to my cot where I laid down with a ration of red wine. After some rest we went out for a short fishing jaunt across the freeway. I only caught huckleberries which were beyond abundant.
There isn't much that tastes as good as fresh corn in high season, and our dinner probably tasted even better than normal because we earned it. Ecousins parents are truly considerate folks. Sleep found us soon and morning came quickly with plenty of signs that we are old.
Staring through the boughs of fir trees as the morning light builds in concert with sleepy bird songs is a privilege of my blessed life. I slowly woke up in open air on my cot and checked for signs of life in my knees and ankles. When it was clear these parts of my body were still intact I elected to get up and have some eggs. 1/2 hour later ecousin, Dan and I were on the 1 mile trail through Easton lake campground that delivered us back to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.
We stopped on the first bridge to watch a coal train roll under us. It was also headed east, to Wyoming most likely. It was empty.
The head-waters of the Yakima culminate in this region of Washington. The Yakima runs clean and cold up here, and is virtually unrecognizable from that trickle of silt that meets the Columbia near Richland. We took some time at every bridge crossing to analyze how the river was changing. We took time to notice the new grasses and junipers and asters as our journey became considerably more arid.
Just before 11am we rolled into South Cle Elum. This was a real treat. It turns out that this old depot is almost a living museum, with a fabulous restaurant. We promptly called ecousins parents and the kids and ordered the best bar-b-que in central WA. There are too many good things to list about this stop, but encourage anyone reading this to take the S. Cle-elum exit on i-90 and enjoy a beer and a rack of ribs. Then tour the museum. There is a lot to learn there. My only regret is that my time was too limited.
Back on the bikes we rolled on towards Ellensburg. From Lake Easton to the Yakima river canyon (again, no escape from here unless you want to swim with a bike), the trail gave us an occasional taste of what was to come. Loose large gravel, signs of horse compitition, and hot dry dusty air. Upon entering the canyon we were delighted to find a packed humid trail, shade and fast running. The canyon is exquisite. Among the top 10 most beautiful places I have been this canyon lies.
About two miles before "Thorpe tunnels" we hit gravel that could be best described as the third circle of hell. By this point my knee was beginning to fail, and I actually walked my bike for a bit. The tunnels were sketchy at best and terrifying (realistically). In the 9 mile home stretch from those tunnels to Ellensburg I only had one working leg and my tire was in danger of blowout due to sidewall failure. In cliche ominous foreshadowing the thunderheads at cascade summit were clearly delivering rain to our campsite, and we were riding our own Iron horses across several miles of wide open agricultural fields with lightning getting closer each minute.
Finally hit pavement at about five in the afternoon and rolled down to "Iron Horse"...a bar in Down town Ellensburg. My kind of bar. They serve beer. They serve water. They have cornhole, and take the game very seriously.
Three beers later, ecousins dad came to pick us up, and we went back up to Easton Lake for dinner and a campfire. The kids roasted marshmallows. I fell asleep on top of my sleeping bag, but woke up mid-night to simultaneous lightning, thunder, and deluge. Grabbed the bag and jumped in the tent with ecousin and Dan.
Humidity from the rain is simply a rough way to live. I grew up in Vermont, but now I live in the desert and I never want to live with humidity again.
Luckily, that humidity doesn't last long in a place like Ellensburg and by the time we got there to begin the final leg of our trip, it was begining to dry up. No sweaty.
I am not a fan of non alcoholic pain-killers, but I will give the inventors of Advil credit where credit is due. Let's just say I took enough to make my leg work again. It might make me have GI problems, but it kept my knee from spoiling the trip. We rolled in weary frustration at the start of day 3.
Ellensburg is the last bastion of "civilization" as you go east on JWPT. The next 32 miles were, however, the most interesting to me. We rolled on ugly loose slow gravel for several miles through agricultural fields and increasingly open desert. The impressive guarded trestles from the first leg of our trip are now spooky wooden crossings where a distracted slip is a death fall. I'm watching out for rattlesnakes.
Then, we hit the detour. The most impressive trestle of all (besides the Columbia crossing) is still not complete. I am not sure it ever will be, it looks like an expensive project. Anyhow, no one was working on it, and we rode the detour to the entrance to the Yakima Firing center.
This military site is a sanctuary for wildlife, and...evidently, exploding things. Bikers must sign in and out at each end. I assume this is so they can compare your dental records with your registration in case a stray bomb leaves only your teeth behind.
We saw seven elk on our climb up to the final tunnel, and took shade under the only trees at the top of the climb. Large cottonwoods, somehow growing at the top of a hill in the driest part of Washington. There is a horse camp here. After miles of grinding, sometimes walking and pushing through sand to get to the start of our final descent those trees might as well have been gold. Our ambient temperature was now about 105...no joke.
We began our roll in a cut strewn with boulders that fell off the sides. At the tunnel I dismounted because the boulders on the tunnel floor were too numerous to avoid. Also, it was 55 degrees in the tunnel versus 105 on the surface. Take the time and cool the core.
After the tunnel the trail becomes diverse. sometimes single track, sometimes boulder dodgeing. Sometimes it was essentially a small willow lined creek. Sometimes it was running fast and steep across ginormous built up repose filled hills, then suddenly congested as you hit the cut of the hill top and were suddenly dodging interesting volcanic debris. Still 105 degrees. Still a bit sandy.
That last 12 miles was down-hill, but the sand still made it a grind. As the Columbia river came in to view, I began to feel a cold chill that meant that in spite of the 15 pints of water I drank, I was finding my way to a heat stroke. Still, took some time to take a few more memorable pictures. I was relieved to see ecousins dad at the trail head parking lot with the truck running, and A/C on "Max". We stopped for an icy drink, an ice cream, and a dip in the Columbia in Vantage, then returned to base camp at Easton Lake. That night was Dan's daughters birthday. Cake ensued.
I would like to thank the folks who made this trip possible for three rusty old fossils. You know who you are.
This year we hope to complete the remaining sections of the trail with minimal support. We have a much better idea of what we are "getting into", now and as long as my knees hold up I think we can make it.
I highly recommend JWPT, and especially the sections that aren't Seattley. Your progress becomes geometrically more meaningful the further you get from the city...
Pat S has posted an excellent and very readable account of his traverse of the JWPT from Idaho to Seattle.
If you are thinking of riding on the wild east side, check it out. Very educational.
Who wants a sag wagon with parts, food, water and beer on ice if he rides on the wild side.
My wife decided she wasn't going to do another 22 mile uphill ride with me, so I started from the Rattlesnake Lake/Cedar Falls trailhead and she drove to Hyak and rode downhill to meet me. I'm not sure if I feel cheated out of the easy return ride!
The trailheads cost us a state parks fee, but they were all one could ask for: parking, (with shade at Cedar Falls), restrooms, running water, picnic tables. There were no facilities between the trailheads.
The surface was good to excellent crushed stone, with only a few stretches of loose stone and one repair area that either needs compacting or was done with the wrong kind of stone. Even that section was rideable.
Along the way I noticed the interstate down below me at times, but it was not a bother at all and didn't detract from the beautiful mountain views and scenic trestles over clear streams. I passed a group of rock climbers at one spot in the trail, but there was plenty of room for all of us.
The tunnel is stunning: over 2 miles long, you can see the pinpoint of light from the other end ahead of you; it serves as a guidepost to keep from swaying left and right, which is my usual problem when riding tunnels where the walls don't reflect any of my light back at me. There were quite a few trail users in the tunnel area but not many further down the mountain. My only complaint about the people in the tunnel is that pedestrians frequently shined their lights in my eyes as they looked to see who was coming the other way. And one rider must have had a car battery mounted on his bike, as his light was bright enough to serve as a headlight on my SUV.
I have read other postings that warn of deteriorating trail conditions to the east of Hyak so I wouldn't go further without a true mountain bike. Cedar Falls is also the junction of another trail heading downhill to the north, the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. That one seems worth a try on my next visit to the area.
I toured Washington from East to West on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in June of this year. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. The trail is a magnificent resource and I feel that we are so privileged to have it as part of the public domain here in Washington. Yes, much of it is rough and remote, but I guess that's part of the appeal for me. It takes you through desolate areas that you would not otherwise have the chance to experience. I did a lot of planning and I will say that selection of the proper equipment and a realistic set of expectations is key to enjoying the trail. From Ellensburg west, the trail is managed as the Iron Horse State Park and has been significantly improved. But from Ellensburg east, it is quite wild. I've written a lot about my experience on the trail . . . more than will be of interest to most. But I found it challenging to find information for certain part of the trail during my trip planning and so I wanted to provide the following link to others who might be interested in planning a similar trip. Scroll down to the end of the post for an index of entries by trail section, along instructions on how to obtain a gpx track of the route: http://26inchslicks.blogspot.com/2012/06/crossing-washington-state-on-john-wayne.html During my planning, Traillink.com was one of the sites I came to for information and I want to thank them as well as user Beloh for the information he provided in his review above, and most especially the information on how to connect the four public access trails together to get from the end of the JWPT at Rattlesnake Lake, to Puget Sound. Happy trails to all. Pat
Riding this trail from Cedar Falls to Ellensburg recently, 2012,we found the trail has a variety of surfaces, non of which are suitable for 25c tires and seldom suitable for 1.25 in. tires. I would suggest the trail be ridden with tires larger than 1.5 inch and bikes with suspension. The signage is misleading from Cle Elum to Ellensburg in that an off trail detour is indicated with no details to avoid a dead end roadway up the hill to I-90. It also advises that tunnels ahead, no mileage, have no through passage. In fact there is through passage,with warnings, but also no alternative detour after 10 miles riding to the Thorpe Tunnels from the signage. This is very difficult to enjoy given the current conditions. Ellis
We finally found access to the trail at exit 38, up the forest road where the trail cross the road (but there are no signs except that you are at Iron Horse State Park). We rode up the hill to Snoqualmie Tunnel and the trail was a nice 2 lane packed gravel. The tressel bridge was really cool, and riding through various forest types along the way made it an interesting ride. The ride was great on my husband's wide tire bikes, but I got tossed around on a hybrid, with my tire going flat by the time we returned to the car. The ride was about 20 miles round trip (not counting the tunnel). It really helps to take along a head lamp for the tunnel, and plan for a cold wind through the tunnel. The tunnel was open, and fun to ride through. The restrooms along the way were clean, and nice spots to rest, and even some camping sites. It was a good ride, but the hour finding access to the trail was a drag. Thanks to the Forest Service fire engine driver that stopped to help us get to a trail access point.
8.7.2012 , Hyak, WA (Note: TrailBear uses paragraphs. TL jams it all into one gigantic paragraph. Sigh.) TrailBear and his trike have gone off trestle hunting. The list: Snoqualmie Tunnel, the Last Snow Shed and the Hansen Creek Trestle. All on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail out of Hyak. WHERE TO PARK – THIS REQUIRES SOME CUNNING… There are daily use fees here: Forest Service fees and state park fees. There are fines. The Campground Host related a tale of one busy day and 400+ tickets being written at $91 each. That will buy a lot of toilet paper for the district. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is located inside a linear state park called the Iron Horse State Park which is located inside assorted National Forests. Who do you pay? Depends on where you park. If you park at the very nice Hyak Trailhead, you are in the state park. They warn you it is a fee area. They provide an Iron Ranger (Mastercard, Visa) at the restrooms to provide a day pass. However, if you drive a bit further to the Lake Kachess Trailhead, you are on Forest Service land and they have a fee of their own. However, if you have one of the federal Golden Geezer passes, put it on the dash and your day fee is taken care of. You can guess where TrailBear parked. THE TUNNEL… What a nice tunnel! TrailBear was expecting something along the lines of the St. Paul Tunnel on the Milwaukee Road in the Rockies – cold, dark, wet. With this in mind, he had his tunnel kit: Two Minewt 250 head lamps – one on the trike for the trail ahead and one on the helmet for scanning. One rain jacket and one fleece vest under. He turned on all the red flashers and headed into the growing darkness, beeping his horn or using the siren to warn traffic. Bit of overkill. There was only one rider behind. Also a bit humid in there. Breath was visible and there was a touch of fog. The 2.3 mile Snoqualmie Tunnel was cold, dark and rather dry, considering. There were the usual drips but no streams of water from the ceiling. The gravel trailbed was well compacted and crowned. The side gutters were covered in drain fabric – a good idea considering the amount of stuff on top of them. The trike got only minor drops of mud on the under carriage. The only negative – the reflectors on the walls were the low white street marker type. Not that easy to pick up. The St. Paul Tunnel has the tab type in yellow and these reflect lots of light. A good thing - as their side ditches are open and riding into one really hurts. WEST PORTAL – THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, GE: N47.39532 W121.44464 … East Portal has a slight curve and is not visible that far down the tunnel. However it is a straight shot to the West Portal and you can see it way off. It first appears as a white dot that could be a head light. It grows bigger and finally you can see the shape of the entrance, then the light grows and you are out into the daylight. Here there are Facilities: vault toilet, information kiosk, picnic tables and a picnic area on the Edge of Creation – which was actually a siding outside the tunnel in the Old Days. There are good views up and down the pass from there. One nice feature on the trail – cell phone service and more. TB was able to call up Google Maps on his Virgin Mobile smart phone. THE LAST SNOW SHED. GE: N47.38651 W121.47529 … Rather sad, really. In the Old Days there were hundreds of yards of snow sheds along Lake Kachess and easily accessed from Hyak. We used to ski out to them. In the late ‘90s they were demolished. This bit of a larger shed is all that remains of the snow sheds on the Milwaukee Road in the Cascades. None were seen on the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho, so this may be the last of the lot on the line. THE HANSEN CREEK TRESTLE, GE: N47.38486 W121.52107 … TrailBear adds another trestle to his count: Hansen Creek. Here is a classic steel model Milwaukee Road trestle. They were designed to be retrofitted over existing wooden trestles. Those went up first for reasons of speed – and cash flow. They also burned well, so their numbers are few and dwindling. Steel lasts better. This one has about 100 years on it. It was a good spot for lunch and a good spot to turn around. The next trestle down is about 6 crow line miles onward and more in trail miles. If you want to do a trestle ride, stage out of the Ollalie State Park trailhead and head towards the Pass on the JWT. There are three big ones in the vicinity of the climbing area. The ride up to the trail camp at Alice Creek and back is a nice day trip. Lots of scenery per mile. Lunch while reclining on his trike (that headrest is good for a nice rest), a few pix and TrailBear is grinding back to the tunnel. “Healthful outdoor exercise!” he calls it. The trailbed is .75” gravel and the ride is slow. The full suspension is welcome. He grinds along at 4.6 mph, wondering if a full set of 26” wheels would help. It would be faster on the FS mountain bike. It would also be painful. Riding a trike is riding in comfort: All day, no pain. Just slower. Trikes on gravel have one or two of the three wheels in the bad stuff. There are two beaten strips (double track) and the wild middle. You decide where the wheels go. With a bike the rear can follow the front. With a trike you lay down three tracks. Blacktop, that’s the solution. The other solution is a trailbed of 3/8”- compacted gravel (Snoqualmie Valley Trail – North Bend to Rattlesnake Lake). Ride on! TrailBear Grinding towards the tunnel.
I did the route from Ellensburg to Seattle, and put together a guide helpful to others thinking of doing it.
along with some other off the road or off the wall bike trips. Have fun!
Now here is an idea TrailBear likes - a shuttle bus between Rattlesnake Lake trailhead and Hyak.
That means that you can start at the top, do the tunnel, then head downhill to Rattlesnake Lake. The summer schedule is service on Friday - Sunday and holidays. He wants to give this a try in 2012 with his new trike.
From the brochure at the Hyak trailhead...
"Agate Pass Transportation and Washington State Parks again offer Bus Up 90 service along the popular John Wayne Pioneer Trail between Rattlesnake Lake and Hyak trailheads..."
"Snoqualmie Shuttle Fall Schedule is now in effect!
Washington's John Wayne Pioneer Trail and Snoqualmie Tunnel are both still open, and we're still shuttling hikers and bikers up to Hyak. You can once again experience the tunnel and trail now that they've reopened after a three year closure! Service will continue until the tunnel closes for the season, or at least until the weather gets too bad, too often.
Plan now to take the shuttle and trail to enjoy spectacular FALL FOLIAGE in the Cascade Range! For an awesome description of the ride through the tunnel, and then on down the trail, visit http://www.mysnovalley.com/?page_id=21
Hike or bike down the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, but save time, fuel, and hassles. Take the Bus-Up! Make your reservations now for 2011 Fall shuttle service between Cedar Falls and Hyak Trailheads.
Fall 2011 Shuttle Schedule:
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, (Labor day, till further notice):
Upbound, Leave Cedar Falls Trailhead at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, and 1:00 PM.
Downbound*, Leave Hyak Trailhead at 10:00 AM, 12:00 NN, and 2:00 PM.
* Downbound walk-up service is not assured. While it may be available, it is always best to make reservations!
Fares: $22 per person each way, with discounts for military, children under 15, and family groups of 5 or more. Pre-paid reservations are highly recommended, but walk-ups will be accommodated on a space-available basis.
Our online reservation system is not yet operational, however you can make pre-paid reservations by phone, between 9 AM and 5 PM, using your Visa or Mastercard, by calling 1-877-BUS UP 90. (That's 1-877-287-8790.) Each trip can accommodate 21 passengers and bicycles. Additional shuttle services for hikers may also be available."
Do they take trikes? It folds up.
This section of the Iron Horse Trail from South Cle Elum Depot to Tunnel 47, one of the two closed Thorp tunnels, does not see much bicycle or hiking traffic while the tunnel closure continues. Tunnel 50 (Snoqualmie Pass) fortunately has been reopened in July 2011 but is usually closed for several months every winter, starting in November. It is not known if and when Tunnels 46 and 47 will be repaired and re-opened so that we can travel all the way to Ellensburg without having to use a detour.
All trail sections west of Cle Elum have received multiple descriptions posted by other trail users on this TrailLink website, but the section east of Cle Elum has not received much attention. Actually, the section along the Yakima River is so scenic, that it was even included as a hike in "100 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes", 1st Ed. (1985), page 184. I have supplemented this trail report with GPS coordinates and photos in the hope that RTC staff can use them later to add geocoded info to the trail description. The photo number in upper left hand corner is keyed to numbers in [brackets] in this report. I hope that my photos will display in the numbered sequence and not randomly interspersed with the other photos already posted.
A Discover Pass is required to park at the South Cle Elum Depot. Sightseeing at the Depot is worthwhile and has already been described in detail in a posting on this web site by ToolBear on September, 3, 2010.
Going east, the first four miles of trail surface are quite loose gravel, a little more strenuous to ride on than the remaining 8 miles where maintenance trucks have packed the gravel for easier riding. Several culverts under the trail have recently been replaced and those heavy construction trucks helped to pack the trail bed. Actually, for the last part of the 4-mile loose gravel stretch, a road (Lower Peoh Point Rd.) parallels the trail with several driveway connections crossing the trail, and one is tempted to leave the trail and opt for smooth asphalt pavement (as long as you find a connection to lead you back to the trail where the trail and paved road diverge). Starting at the Depot (mile 0, N47.18387, W120.95373, elev. 1932), the trail crosses two streets (6th Street and South Cle Elum Way, but no white stripes on the street mark the trail crossings) and several driveways and at 2.9 mi. comes to a crossing with River Ranch Lane road and the start of detour instructions**   (N47.17656, W120.89542, elev. 1900) before the (now dead-ended) trail continues under the freeway I-90. There is a yellow sign with a bicycle and an arrow pointing right and 14.5 MILES (presumably the length of the detour). From here Lower Peoh Point Rd. on the south continues to parallel the trail until you come to a gate  at 4.3 mi., N47.16742, W120.86567, el. 1900. (Someone suggested to cheating and parking at this gate and riding from there - there is no designated parking and don't block the gate! There is no designated parking at this location). While up to here the scenery left and right of the trail was not too enticing (pastures and isolated ranch houses), the scenery becomes more dramatic at mile point 5 where the Yakima River and its confluence with the Teanaway River come into view. At 5.3 mi. is the first of three picnic areas with a picnic table  N47.16735, W120.84793, el.1860.43. From here on the trail stays mostly within view of the river and sometimes old Highway 10 on the other side of the river. At 6.25 mi. is the second picnic area, Turkey Gulch  N47.16489, W120.82948, el.1866. At 7.3 mi. is the third picnic area, Ponderosa  N47.15821, W120.81028, el. 1844. At 8.1 mi. the overflow water from an irrigation ditch comes cascading down a steep hillside  and spills into the river N47.14769, W120.80868, el. 1813. It looks like a waterslide in an amusement park but it is a bit too steep for my taste and instead of landing in a pool it funnels through a narrow pipe, deadly for sure. Along the trail is an old dilapidated shack  and two cattle gates. At 12.5 mi. the trail ends (for now) at Tunnel 47  N47.12250, W120.73223, el.1759. Even at low water, there are no easy bypasses past Tunnel 47 on the river side since the river has carved out a steep cliff  and going steeply overland crosses private property. The cement lining on the walls and ceiling of the tunnel is crumbling . There is not much elevation loss between the Depot and here (-180 ft.) and riding back up is easy. It is unfortunate that at no point the trail provides an easy access to the river, presumably because Washington State Parks owns only a narrow strip of land and all land left and right of the old RR grade is still private land. In the future, Washington State Parks should look into acquiring some of the chord-shaped pieces of land between the trail and the river that otherwise have no established access road.
** Just for those who did not read the detour instructions at
here is a repeat of what is posted on that web site and at the trailside where the detour starts:
Tunnel 46 and 47 detour directions are as follows:
Eastbound travelers will find a map and detour signs three miles east of Cle Elum.
Follow the yellow bicycle signs with orange flags south off the JWPT.
Westbound travelers from Thorp will find the same detour signs east of Taneum Road; this route is south of the JWPT.
From the west, the detour starts at River Ranch Lane. Travel south to Lower Peoh Point Rd.
Travel east approximately 150 feet to Watson Cutoff Rd.
Turn south on Watson Cutoff Rd to Upper Peoh Point Rd.
Travel east four miles on Upper Peoh Point.
When the road turns to Thorp Prairie Rd., travel east on Thorp Prairie Rd 13 miles to E Taneum Rd.
Then travel northeast on E Taneum Rd. for two miles to the trail crossing.
To me, it's a thigh burner on the way up, but oh so heavenly on the way down. Gorgeous views. Quiet and not at all crowded. "Normal" (somewhat) bathrooms and picnic tables make it nice.
We were two of the first bicycle riders since the re-opening of the tunnel to ride the shuttle bus up and ride through the tunnel and back down on the Iron Horse Trail. The tunnel has undergone major improvements with the drain ditches on both sides now covered by boards and fiber cloth to keep the silt out of the water. The washout on the east portal has been repaired and the road rebuilt. The road surface in the tunnel has received a new layer of crushed rock and is graded completely smooth. If you ride through the tunnel, dress warmly and waterproof since it always drips from the ceiling. Entering the tunnel is like entering a refrigerator. Temperature in the tunnel is 38-40 F. After exiting the tunnel and starting to ride downhill, we saw five bear scats on the trail but only within 3-4 miles of the tunnel exit and none of the animals was to be seen. This is a scenic ride and there are lots of flowers blooming on the rocks at the trailside at this time of the year. There are several picnic tables, two campgrounds, three outhouses and two portable toilets between Hyak and Cedar Falls. This will soon be as popular as the Hiawatha tunnels in Idaho-Montana, except the Iron Horse trail surface is in better condition.
Dear bicycling friends: GOOD NEWS!
I just received note that the shuttle between Rattlesnake Lake (=Cedar Falls) and Hyak will resume on July 1, 2011.
Go and look at the web site
Welcome to Bus-Up 90 !
Snoqualmie Shuttle Service to Resume in July 2011
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail and Snoqualmie Tunnel will officially reopen July 5, 2011,with a big celebration and trail ride. It's all part of the 40th Anniversary of the Mountain to Sound Greenway, and Bus-Up 90 is very proud to be an official part of it. We're now accepting reservations for shuttle service between Cedar Falls and Hyak Trailheads.
2011 Inaugural Shuttle Schedule: (Starting July 1)
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays:
Upbound, Leave Cedar Falls Trailhead at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.
Downbound, Leave Hyak Trailhead at 10:00 AM, 12:00 NN, 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM.
Fares will be $22 per person each way, with discounts for military, children under 12, and family groups of 4 or more. Pre-paid reservations are highly recommended, but walk ups will be accommodated on a space-available basis.
Our online reservation system is not yet operational, however you can make pre-paid reservations by phone, between 9 AM and 5 PM, using your Visa or Mastercard, by calling 1-877-BUS UP 90. (That's 1-877-287-8790.) Each trip can accommodate 21 passengers and bicycles. Additional shuttle services for hikers may also be available.
Rode the Iron Horse section from Easton to Cle Elum today (12 June, 2011) on mountain bikes with my wife and 7 year old son. We were very disappointed with this section of the trail due to the size of the rocks on the trail and the concentration of loose gravel/stones which made riding very hard. This section (the only part of the trail we have been on) has the potential to be a great tourist attraction, but it needs to be more rideable for people of all ages/abilities. We rode a 21 mile ride and only saw 2 other people riding the whole day on a beautiful sunny day.
We rode this trail (on mountain bikes with BoB trailers) starting in Seattle by by riding the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Sammish River Trail to the Tolt Pipeline Trail to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. The 1st day was 70 miles to the Alice Creek backcountry campground. The 2nd day went as far as Cle Elum, and the 3rd day went to Wanupum State Park on the Columbia. We then crossed the Columbia on the I-90 bridge at Vantage WA (VERY DANGEROUS) and continued on the John Wayne Trail.
I would have given this trail a higher rating but, because of tunnel closures, there are some long detours required. The 1st is a steep, miserable climb up to Snoqualmie Pass on I-90: there is a wide shoulder but it is busy and noisy and climbs 800' in about 2 miles. You can rejoin the trail at Hyak for a few miles but you get sent back to I-90 near Cabin Creek and ride it all the way to Lake Easton State Park. The trail, when you can get on it is good, mostly gravel. Also, after you leave the Snoqualmie Pass area there are no places to camp except at Wanupum State Park. The condition of the trail itself is excellent but the detours could use better signs.
From Rattlesnake Lake you climb steadily to the closed tunnel at Snoqualmie pass. There are 2 nice state park campsites about 8-9 miles up from the trail start. Right before the tunnel there is an old power road which drops yopu down to I-90 right before it climbs up to Snoqualmie Pass. (You'll know it is the right road if it goes right by a cell tower.) After rejoining the trail at Hyak you'll ride by 2 more campsited along Kecheelus Lake before you get detoured again.
After Cle Elum, more signs try to direct you to another long road ride (but not on I-90 this time) but the tunnels are open so don't take the detour. This section is along the Yakima river and is probably the prettiest section of the ride, well worth a day trip.
The next detour is after Ellensburg at Kittitas around a derelict trestle. This is about 3 miles with some climbing but the roads are lightly traveled. This end at the Yakima Army Base (Army West) where you self register to ride across. (Just the idea of riding through a military firing range is too cool.) The trail on the west side of the Boylston Tunnel on the base is very soft with lots of horse traffic so the riding is slow. The tunnel itself is open although the army has recently put in some concrete barriers to keep vehicles out. East of the tunnel you begin a fantastic 15 mile descent to the Columbia River. The trail is still soft but usually not as bad as on the west side because of fewer horses. (It is soft and steep enough that climbing uo east to west would be agonizingly slow.) No water is available in this section except for one place near the eastern end of the trail.
Camping at Wanupum State Park was decent but expensive ($28 - no hiker/biker sites.)
We rode this trail (on mountain bikes with BoB trailers) starting in Seattle by by riding the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Sammish River Trail to the Tolt Pipeline Trail to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail which connects to the John Wayne trail/Iron Horse State Park. The 1st day was 70 miles to the Alice Creek backcountry campground. The 2nd day went as far as Cle Elum, and the 3rd day went to Wanupum State Park on the Columbia. The old rail road trestle across the Columbia is gated off so we then crossed on the I-90 bridge at Vantage WA (VERY DANGEROUS) and picked up the trail at Beverly, WA ending day 4 in Othello, WA. Day 5 was from Othello to Ritzville and Day 6 was Ritzville to Lamont, WA.
I would have given this trail a higher rating but, because of tunnel closures, there are some long detours required. The 1st is a steep, miserable climb up to Snoqualmie Pass on I-90: there is a wide shoulder but it is busy and noisy and climbs 700' in about 2 miles. You can rejoin the trail at Hyak for a few miles but you get sent back to I-90 near Cabin Creek and ride it all the way to Lake Easton State Park. The trail, when you can get on it is good, mostly gravel. Also, after you leave the Snoqualmie Pass area there are no places to camp except at Wanupum State Park and an ORV park near Beverly, even hotels get scarce. This makes for some long days.
The trail officially begins at Rattle Snake Lake near North Bend, WA. It is in good condition, gravel and dirt, and climbs steadily all the way to Snoqualmie Pass. There are 2 nice state park campsites at Alice Creek and Carter Creek ($5/night, vault toilets, no water but streams are nearby.) Unfortunately, the tunnel at Snoqualmie Pass is closed so riding I-90 is the only way over. There are a couple more campsites along Kecheelus Lake, east of the Pass
After Cle Elum, more signs try to direct you to another long road ride (but not on I-90 this time) but the tunnels are open so don't take the detour. This section is along the Yakima river and is probably the prettiest section of the ride, well worth a day trip.
The next detour is after Ellensburg at Kittitas around a derelict trestle. This is about 3 miles with some climbing but the roads are lightly traveled. This ends at the Yakima Army Base where you self register to ride across. (Just the idea of riding through a military firing range is too cool.) The trail on the west side of the Boylston Tunnel is very soft with lots of horse traffic so the riding is slow. The tunnel itself is open although the army has recently put in some concrete barriers to keep vehicles out of it. East of the tunnel you begin a fantastic 15 mile descent to the Columbia River. The trail is still soft but not as bad as on the west side because of fewer horses.
Camping at Wanupum State Park was decent but expensive ($28 - no hiker/biker sites.) The next morning we crossed the I-90 bridge at Vantage, probably the most dangerous part of the ride. The bridge is 2 lanes each direction and absolutely no shoulder. Traffic was light and the cars/trucks gave us plenty of room but it is uphill for 1/2 mile; a bad place to get a flat. Unfortunately there is no other way across. After this it is an easy ride to Beverly to rejoin the trail.
The rest of this trail requires you to get permits in advance. Depending on which section you plan to ride you get them from either WA State DNR or WA State Parks. They will also send you info on closed sections and detour routes. Be sure to ask for gate lock combinations.
Next you get about 14 miles on beautiful trail, including unexpected crossings of Lower Crab Creek. Right before you go back on the road you ride through the tiny town (no services) of Smyrna. This section is filled with goat-head thorns. If you don't know about these thorns do some research and plan accordingly; Slime tubes don't even slow them down. Also watch out for electric fences (but that's another story.) Once you've fixed you're flat tires it is an easy, but long road ride into Othello.
After Othello there is another 10 miles on road to Warden, WA where you pick up the trail again. The trail starts getting rougher here, with larger ballast so the going is slow. The is no water along this section so fill up at Warden. It is a long ride to Lind WA where another trestle is out. We left the trail and rode US 395 to Ritzville because it was getting dark. The trail continues after Lind for another 15 miles and then you detour to Ritzville (10 miles) to avoid a missing bridge over Cow Creek.
Leaving Ritzville you ride the roads for about 10 miles to get back on the trail. Even rougher conditions now, big tires and low pressure are the only way to get by. We rode as far as the Columbia Plateau Trail and headed north to our pickup point in Lamont, WA.
The parts of the trail in Eastern WA are fairly isolated so be prepared to get yourself out of any trouble you get into. We encountered no other trail users after Ellensburg and cell phone coverage is spotty. Water is scarce, bring a filter and/or treatment tablets; you'll be drinking from streams in cow country. Even in late September then sun was hot and there was minimal shade. Rattle snakes are around and those goat-head thorns will ruin your day.
TRAILBEAR ON THE PALOUSE - The Bridges at Rosalia
What is the TrailBear doing out in the midst of the Palouse (think wheat covered dunes) at the little hamlet of Rosalia, WA? Not riding the JWPT, that's for sure. It would be just right for an ATV, but the ballast is a bit much for his mountain bike,
He was attracted by a Google Earth photo of the bridges at Rosalia and had to see for himself. This was part of a 1400 mile trail survey expedition (Tri Cities, Lewiston, Clarkston, Pullman, Moscow, Troy, Harrison, Spokane, Thorp and back to the San Juans just ahead of more rain. There is some good Class I riding in the Palouse, just not here. Every GE photo of the JWPT beyond the river shows people walking. No one is riding.
So there he is, dodging rain showers and shooting pictures. These have been uploaded to the trail page. It's a rather elegant pair of concrete bridges done about a century ago. There was a good deal more to Rosalia than expected. Schools, a bank, etc. For "take the first bus out" visit Washtucna or Kahlotus. TrailBear did.
The Rosalia High School '53 herald is still showing (must be lead paint), as is one of the Milwaukee Road heralds. The trail sign is from the parks department - and TB thought the DNR has control of the trail east of the Columbia.
For a few more photos of undeveloped trails, check out the Columbia Plateau Trail page. They have some wonderful steel trestles. Alas, closed!
Snapping pix in the middle of Elsewhere
Good trail for bikes as long as you've got fat tires. The gravel is relatively well packed and the grade never exceeds 2.5% (iirc). Scenic and well worth the time. The biggest problem the trails faces at this time is that there are several tunnels closed due to their deteriorating condition.
My wife and I took the Rattlesnake Lake to Snoqualmie pass route the first time and it was a great ride. It's about 18 miles one way from Rattlesnake to the tunnel with about a 1600ft elevation gain. There was a wash out about a quarter mile from the tunnel, so if you decide to negotiate the small creek, you'll have traveled as far as you can and you'll see the old tunnel. Two and a half miles long, you don't see the other end :)
Our next trip was from the other side of the tunnel which is the Hyak area. Traveling from Hyak to Easton is about a 16 mile trip one way with a slight elevation drop (about 800ft). Scenic, with a couple detours for closed tunnels, but a good ride.
From Easton to Cle Elum, is about 14 miles one way and relatively flat. Here the trail starts to follow somewhat closely to the freeway, so there is a little more civilization to deal with. On a good note, the Yakima river starts to make itself seen.
Due to two tunnels out, we haven't done the Cle Elum to Thorp portion of the ride yet. The detour is mostly country roads, dealing with traffic with little to no shoulders to avoid speeding autos.
Thorp to Kitittas is the next section and that ride takes you through the city of Ellensburg. It's about 15.5 miles one way and it crosses the Yakima river and takes you along farmer's fields. Again, relatively flat. While not as scenic, it is still a charming ride. I recommend getting an early start as the winds can blow steadily later in the day and you'll find your pleasant little ride turn into a slog as the dust will make looking into the wind a pain.
The last leg my wife and I want to do is the ride from Kitittas to Army East as it's called. I wouldn't want to break this into two trips so we'll try this in one shot. It's about 29 miles from Kitittas to Columbia river. Our plan is to over-night at the state park near Vantage at the end of the ride and have two cars so we don't have to retrace our steps. It's a decent climb the first half of the ride, 11 miles with a 900ft gain, but then it looks like a decent drop after that as you descend into the Columbia river basin (about 2000ft).
I can't speak to the trail condition of that last section of the trail, but the rest of the trail is in good shape. Gravel bed with fairly nice trail heads as I have outlined above. The exception is Kitittas which didn't have working water or bathrooms.
Do bring your hydration packs, do bring your bike tools and spare tubes or patch kits. Do bring a picnic lunch, there are many spots to have a very nice picnic. If you wish to brave the tunnels, bring your lights, it's really dark in there! I personally like breaking the trip into short rides so that you can do each step in a day. My wife and I are in decent shape and we found these were big enough bites for us. If you're in better condition, you can tackle two sections at a time or more.
More info: http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Iron%20Horse
TRAILBEAR AT THE DEPOT – South Cle Elum Depot, Trailhead & Rail Yard Trail
This is worth a look.
You could have a nice family outing at the South Cle Elum Depot and combine the history trail with out and back rides up and or down the trail. Hit the depot on the right day and the restaurant is open.
South Cle Elum is one of the more interesting trailheads on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Not because of the superb facilities. The trailhead itself consists of a large gravel parking lot, one vault toilet (wooden) and an information kiosk. The sense of “deluxe” is not overwhelming.
What does South Cle Elum have?
A whole division point worth of facilities. It has the original passenger depot, a substation that once converted 100,000 ACV into 3000 DCV current for the trains, the remains of shops, turn table, round house and other facilities found in an engine terminal rail yard with company bungalows for staff. In short, it has history on the hoof and a rather nice walking history trail to take you through it. This is very much worth the walk.
From here it is 11+ miles up the JWPT to Easton Trailhead. The ride to Easton looks interesting for the first five miles as there are two bridges. The rest is miles along the freeway – boring.
The 18+ miles down to Thorp Trailhead look boring for the first five miles (fields, etc.), then you reach the river. Remember that the Thorp Tunnels are closed before you arrive at Thorp. It does make getting around awkward.
The ride along the river down to the first tunnel looks worthwhile. For those who, like the TrailBear, wish to Cut to the Chase – there appears to be an access point at 47.167032 x -120.864556 on the Lower Peoh Point Rd., about a half mile short of where the trail embraces the river.
Park the bike, try the Rail Yard Trail and explore the Milwaukee Road at South Cle Elum. Start at the Depot, built in 1909, and go from there. Have a nice walk. Photos of some of the information signs and remains are posted in the trail pix.
Wandering across the rail yard at South Cle Elum
TRAILBEAR’S FACILITIES SURVEY – John Wayne Pioneer Trail Access from Rattlesnake Lake to Easton
Start on Interstate 90 in Seattle or thereabouts and head east for Snoqualmie Pass. Here are the trailheads and access points in order, west to east for the bits that folks actually ride. (Ridership east of Easton does drop off.) The information is based on the TrailBear actually going to these places by van with camera and GPS in hand. Paste the GPS coordinates into Google Earth to see where things are located.
EXIT 32, RATTLESNAKE LAKE RECREATION AREA, IRON HORSE STATE PARK, 47.432299 -121.766859
Take Exit 32 onto 436th Ave SE and head uphill to the Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area. The lake is situated in a pass in the mountains where three ridges meet. It’s also where three rail lines meet. Coming down from the pass is the old Milwaukee Road, now the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Iron Horse State Park. The Road splits at the lake. One branch – the Snoqualmie Valley Trail - goes north and downhill into the Snoqualmie Valley and (with one gap) continues up to Duvall.
The other branch goes southwest down the valley of the Cedar River to Renton on Lake Washington. This branch is not developed into a trail at the upper end. You have to go down to Landsburg Rd. trailhead, some 11+ miles away to reach the upper end of the Cedar River Trail.
When you enter the rec area the right hand road leads down to the lake – where the kids are partying. You take the left turn and climb uphill to the trailhead at the Iron Horse State Park.
It’s a nice trailhead – paved parking, two deluxe vault toilets, information kiosks, tables, benches and the ends of both the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Get on the trail and start climbing towards the tunnel (closed).
EXIT 38, OLLALIE TRAILHEAD, 47.441651 -121.671788
In about 600’ after you exit onto Homestead Valley Rd., (Ollalie State Park), your turn on the right appears. The sign says something like: Ollalie State Park – Homestead Valley Trailhead. Not a mention of the JWT. It is the first gravel road on your right on Homestead Valley Rd. As you enter the parking area, notice the gated gravel road to the left. You take this 0.37 steeply uphill to join the JWT.
The trailhead features a vault toilet and a large gravel parking area. The exit is limited to getting off going east and getting on going west. There is another partial exit at the upper end of Ollalie State Park.
EXIT 38, THE GARCIA GATES ACCESS PARKING, 47.424089 -121.621227
Instead of a steep uphill hike or pedal, why not just drive up to the trail? Exit as for the Ollalie Trailhead. Drive up Homestead Valley Rd. past the park. Where it turns to the freeway on-ramp, there is a gravel road to the right: 9020. In one mile, with some steep pitches, it will cross the JWT at the Garcia Gates Crossing. There is access parking for six or more cars on either side.
The other half of Exit 38 is up the road at the eastern end of Ollalie State Park. You can get on I-90 east bound and off I-90 west bound from here.
EXIT 42 TINKHAM RD, McCELLAN BUTTE TRAILHEAD, 47.411999 -121.588650
Take Exit 42, Tinkham Rd. toward the Tinkham Campground. Shortly after you pass the WSDOT facility and the fancy creekside home on the curve, the next gravel road to the right is yours. No trailhead sign there. Head uphill to the McCellan Butte Trailhead. You can hike the bike up the trail to reach the JWT, but who would wish to? TrailBear, he would be parked at Garcia Gates and avoid the hike.
EXIT 47, DENNY CREEK CAMPGROUND, ANNETTE LAKE TRAILHEAD, 47.392554 -121.474514
Exit the freeway and turn right to head for the Annette Lake Trailhead, etc. The road Ts into the Tinkham Rd. Turn left. On 0.4 miles there is a large blacktopped parking lot with one of those obso chocolate brown (inside and out – like a cave) vault toilets. You can take your bike 0.8 miles uphill to the JWT, but no further up the Annette Lake Trail. This trailhead gets you close to the West Portal, the exemplar snow shed and the Hansen Creek Trestle.
EXIT 54, HYAK TRAILHEAD, 47.391396 -121.392360
Take Exit 54 on the eastern side of the Snoqualmie Summit ski area. Turn right onto Rt. 906 for a short distance, then left onto Hyak Dr. E. / Rd. 2219 and head towards the WSDOT facility gate. The road turns right here. Do so, then take the next right toward the ski slope. Shortly you will be in a large paved parking area with picnic tables around the edges and a very nice restroom in the center.
The restroom features six cabin style loos with power and two of them have showers. In summer no fee is charged at this trailhead. Come winter it is a Sno Park and you pay, but you can ski the JWT.
EXIT 54, LAKE KEECHELUS TRAILHEAD, 47.384386 -121.389856
If you want to pay a day use fee, or have a Golden Age or other accepted passport, you can try the USFS Lake Keechelus Trailhead. Rewind to where you turned at the WSDOT gate. Where you turned right to Hyak, now carry on ahead down 2219. The trailhead is about 0.7 miles further on. There is a vault toilet, info kiosk, picnic table and paved parking. If you take the road to the end, you wind up at the Lake Keechelus Boat Launch – which works better when the water level is up in the lake.
EXIT 71, EASTON TRAILHEAD, 47.230746 -121.171445
Take Exit 71 into Easton. Turn right at the bottom of the off ramp and onto Cabin Creek Rd. Follow it across Railroad St., across the active RR tracks, thence to where it crosses the JWPT. Turn left onto the JWPT and go 0.3 miles to a large graveled parking lot adjacent to the trail.
This is the Easton Trailhead. It has tables, water, vault toilets, info kiosks and lots of parking. There were directional signs to the trailhead back in 2008. They may still be there. Note: the trailhead is NOT in Lake Easton State Park – up the road a bit. Camping is there.
Looking for just the right trailhead
TRAILBEAR FINDS THREE TRESTLES IN THREE MILES – John Wayne Trail from Twin Falls to Alice Creek
TrailBear is scouting how to visit the best parts of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and leave the miles and miles of woods for those who want to ride miles and miles of wood. He figures he has done enough miles of woods to declare: BTDT and where can I buy the T shirt? He wants to pare things down so he just gets the goodies. Forget the broccoli; he wants the ice cream!
There is ice cream up this trail. There are three trestles within a range of three miles from the Twin Falls Trailhead. That is a very good miles-to-attractions ratio. Trestle #4, Hansen Creek, is miles further on. Ride three miles out and play tourist at 75% of the trestles on the west side of the pass? Sounds like a deal. Begin the ride at…
TWIN FALLS TRAILHEAD, 0.0 MILES, N47.44176 W121.67197
Now here is a handy trailhead just off Exit 38 (SE Homestead Valley Rd., Twin Falls State Park) on I-90. As you exit the freeway from Seattle and cross the river, it is the first gravel road to the right. The sign says something like: Ollalie State Park – Homestead Valley Trailhead.
Thursday morning the place was empty, then a few cars by lunch. On Friday morning, while Der Bear was alone, having breakfast in the sunshine, comes a Leviathan class bus. Out pour the tots and their wranglers. Climbing summer camp. Plan on the place being a zoo on good summer weekends.
Tucked on a slope above the bottom of the park is a large gravel parking lot with a vault toilet and info kiosk. Not much info on the JWT. There is a better map down in the picnic area.
As you enter the parking area, note the gated gravel road to the left. You take it uphill 0.37 steep miles to the…
TRAIL JUNCTION, 0.37 MI, N47.44198 W121.67633
You are now on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the Iron Horse State Park. Go right to the big trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake. Go left to the closed tunnel at Snoqualmie Pass and points in between. Bear goes left to the …
DECEPTION CRAGS CLIMBING AREA, MI, N47.43773 W121.66378
Washington is rather lacking in good and accessible rock climbing areas. The Milwaukee Road had to blow the cliffs to hang the road bed on a ledge in this section. Someone got a Bright Idea and used the cliffs as a practice rock climbing area. That works. The rock looks decent.
It’s about a mile walk from the trailhead (which is freeway close) and most of the routes have permanent hardware and anchors. There are porta potties here and there. Could use a few picnic tables or benches. Benches would be nice – facing the rock so you can watch the show. There are nice views up and down the pass from here.
It must be a nice place to practice. TB wonders: Where was this when he was at the U-W, ages ago? Probably the Road was still active and hostile to people on the track.
The trailbed thus far is homogeneous hardpack and gravel. No large rocks in evidence; give it a B rating.
CHANGE CREEK TRESTLE, 1.09 MI, N47.43733 W121.66349
Pedal along under the cliffs for a short distance and here is the Change Creek Trestle. Not a bad looking job. It’s a classic Milwaukee Road steel trestle. You can see a lot of these on the Route of the Hiawatha over in Idaho. That is one fun ride. Take the family. Buy the shuttle ticket back to the top. This one has a climbing area right at the end of the trestle. Look right and notice the anchors. There is a trail under the trestle to the bottom of this climb.
For about 600 miles on the Western Extension the Milwaukee Road was electrical powered by 3,000 volt DC current in one overhead wire. They had converter stations every X miles to convert the AC to DC. Only one of the overhead frames used to support phone wires and the power cable is still there, but the brackets below the bridge deck are intact.
HALL CREEK TRESTLE, 1.46 MI, N47.43361 W121.65832
Change Creek Trestle was rather short. This one at Hall Creek has a bit more going for it. Admire but stay tuned for the best of the lot …
MINE CREEK TRESTLE, 2.78 MI, N47.42552 W121.63546
Now this is a trestle! Long, curving, about 0.1 miles long and it looks like it has a full set of overhead power frames. TB counts seven frames and still has fingers left. Three of the timber bolt-on phone wire arms still remain.
This is rather close to what you would have seen when the Road was operational. They had a Cleverness for the bridge decking: prefab concrete trays. Place edge to edge on the girders. Secure. Fill with ballast and add cross ties and rails. Your bridge deck was one long pan filled with gravel. Worked just fine.
TrailBear planned to turn around here: “Three Miles – Three Trestles”. A nice little ride; rather uphill, but that makes for rather downhill later. But no! TB always wonders what is around the next bend. The park map showed an Alice Creek Camp not too far ahead. Or, not too far as you figure on a map covering 70 miles. The Details get a bit lost. TrailLink could add another outhouse to the map. Onward! Alice Creek or Bust!
GARCIA, 3.34 MI, N47.42397 W121.62164
OK, Garcia what? Here is the sign out in the tullies. TB does not see enough room for a siding. What was Garcia and what did they do there? This will take some research.
At the library, working up the field notes, TB’s topo map shows a siding uphill of the trail and a bit further on. Does that make it Garcia Siding? Take a look for the exit points off the roadbed.
ACCESS PARKING - THE GARCIA GATES, 3.60 MI, N47.42397 W121.62164
Here is access parking for about a dozen cars where the trail crosses Garcia Rd. (gravel). The trail is gated and signed in both directions from here. Look to see if there is a siding up the hill. TB just rode on to the milage sign a bit further east.
Forest Rd 9020, down at the bottom of the grade and close aboard Exit 38 is the Garcia Rd. It has some steep pitches, but TB and the van were able to get up it at twilight to confirm the route. One mile from the freeway and you are parking on the trail. This tip is not in the park brochure.
TRAIL JUNCTION – McCELLAN BUTTE TRAIL, 5.50 MI, N47.41220 W121.59591
Here the trail to McCellan Butte (a death march but good views) crosses the JWT. This is another way to access the JWT. Park at the Butte trailhead and walk the bike up to there. TB thinks driving up Garcia Rd. and parking there sounds better than Hike A Bike.
Now where is that pesky campsite? Did Der Bear see a roof in the distance, under a power line, across the drainage of Alice Creek? Pedal on and see.
ALICE CREEK TRAIL CAMP, 5.87 MI, N47.40992 W121.59165
At last! Alice Creek Camp. There is the vault toilet painted a gay orange with red trim. It anchors the camp. TB vaguely recalls these to be the Milwaukee Road colors. He should have checked to see if the siding and batten detail is wood or faux concrete. The loo is a prefab concrete unit. This is one of the deluxe models.
There are three picnic tables here and each table has three tent platforms associated with it. Water is the question, and on the way down, TB saw a side trail on the left leading down into the Alice Creek drainage. Probably that is the water access. Do filter it – or – Beaver Fever.
Alice Creek is crossed by a humongous embankment. We are told these were cheaper than trestles. They often use hydraulic jets to sluice down the fill. The railroads must have been the biggest earth movers in the county. How many thousand cubic yards of fill went into this one embankment out in the tullies?
HEADING BACK - DOWNHILL ALL THE WAY AND MOVING FASTER
This is the end of the line for the day. TB eats two bear bars, gets a glamour shot of the Gutterbunny, and then heads downhill for a change. This is nice. The altitude difference between Twin Falls and Alice Creek is 616’. This translates into: Hardly pedaling and doing 12+ mph on a high friction surface.
Just beyond the Hall Creek Trestle he spots two climbers climbing and squeals to a stop for some human interest shots. The lead is being lowered down the face. It looks like he put up a route with assorted anchors and slings. Now, with a top rope, he is free to try it again and push things a bit. The math is better than when leading: Ten feet above last anchor = twenty feet down before the belayer goes to work.
But enough of that. TrailBear is headed back for lunch, so best not get between him and his food. The descent of the road out of the trailhead to the junction is interesting. Love those hydraulic brakes. They will stop a bear. TB eases down the climb: Steep with loose gravel. He has no desire for a Yard Sale within view of the van. He survives to unfold the Sloth Chair and devour a ham & cheese.
TRIP NOTES …
This was a fun ride. Certainly an uphill grade. It felt like 3-4%. The elevation graph on the GPS showed an alarming incline at points beyond the trestles. However, the attractions are in close and well worth the short ride.
Scenery = A. Trestles, climbers, views up and down the pass. Lots to see.
Facilities = B. You are well provided with porta potty pit stops on this route. Bring water.
Trailbed = B – C-. It is a one lane gravel road. From the trailhead to the Crags it’s a B trail: Uniform small gravel. This seems to be about as good as it gets on “soft surface” (at least until they discover something called “road base” – which comes with fines and compacts right well for a smoother surface.) Beyond the three trestles you see larger rock (6” minus) in the mix: C. Beyond Garcia you have the larger rock plus unfilled potholes: C-
Hansen Creek Trestle is about 2.3 miles out of the Annette Lake trail crossing. You can stage at the Asahel Curtis Trailhead and bike uphill 0.8 miles to the junction. Turn right and you are soon on the only snow shed left. This is one they put up out of material from the demolition. But why here? Why not over on the lake where people could reach it easier?
Turn left and you can go to the tunnel. The trail notes say the trail is out 1.x miles west of the West Portal, but TB talked to a rider on 8.12.10 that had just come down from there and he reported no problem reaching the tunnel. However, the work around for him was a half hour on I-90 climbing up to the pass. Beats the Denny Creek Rd. option.
If you could get uphill to the nest of roads in the ski area, you could ride down to exit at Silver Fur, Hyak or Cold Creek. It is worth looking for a route. There is a power line right of way heading uphill for 0.4 miles and they usually have some sort of access track.
CAMPING – Tinkham CG. Four miles up the road at the Tinkham Rd. exit. Lots of choices during the week, but almost every site was booked for the weekend. Thick woods. Whoever did the sites did a fine job on the pull in design. Plenty of room and sloped correctly.
Eating his ice cream and eschewing his broccoli.
One of the best trails in the best bicycling states (Washington) is broken into pieces. The powers-that-be have closed the tunnels due to a slight chance that a rock could hit someone in the tunnels. This breaks a cross-state state park/trail into in and out pieces. What would be wrong about signs stating that there was a chance of falling rock and proceed at own risk? I would promise not to sue, and take the 1-in-a-million chance!
Thew comments post do not reflest the towns or land marks on the map.
On one trip I rode from Cedar Falls to Hayak round trip and it was a very nice ride. The tunnel just before Hayak was an experience I will not forget. I held my bike light in my hand while riding through the tunnel so that I could get a good view of all the walkers. This proved to be a bad idea since the movement of the flashlight, the tunnel vision and the sounds of the people all combined to bring on a serious case of motion sickness. On the return trip a cliped the light to the handlebar and this proved to be much easier on the stomache. Now a 2% grade doesn't sound like much but it sure adds up. Most of this section of trail was hardpacked and provided for easy peddling. From South Cle Elum to Thorpe is a whole different story. This section of trail is full of loose rock and will wear you out quick. The Yakima river and getting away from the interstate provides for some quite sceanery but it is certainly a workout. Its interesting that this use to be an electric rail line. You can still see some of the old substations and overhead power poles along the route.
"My plan was to take 3 days and ride the entire trail, roughly riding about 35 miles each day one way and then back.
Day 1 Ellensburg to Army East
There is too much gravel on the trail in heading east out of Ellensburg. As the trail begins to climb over I-90, the trail becomes smoother. The bridge over I-90 has no floor in it so you must detour under the interstate to get to the other side. Arriving as Army West, you are supposed to sign your name and register thru this portion of the trail. There was nothing to sign. Beginning at Army West the trail is full of sand and is impossible to ride with a bicycle. I walked my bike for 2 miles hoping the trail would improve, but it didn't. Disapointed that I couldn't ride to Army East, I returned to Ellensburg.
Day 2 Ellensburg to Easton
The trail would be much more pleasant if they would get rid of the excess gravel. I found myself riding on parallel roads for a much smoother surface. There were also horses on this stretch of trail who only made the trail worse by loosening up the rocks. There were several bridges with no guard rail. With all of the excess gravel, it would be easy to veer off of the bridge.
Day 3 Easton to Cedar Falls
The trail is in better shape on this section. There were also more people using the trail here. I didn't meet any other bikes on day 1 or 2 of my trip. The scenery is the most scenic here.
"My family and I ride the Iron Horse several times each summer. Typically we will leave a car at Cedar Falls (near North Bend) or Easton and start from the summit at Hyak. This makes for a gradual downhill ride and is easier for the kids. A twenty mile trail ride is possible by 9+ year olds, which is quite an achievement and a lot of fun for all. Just remember to bring a tire repair kit!"
" In the summer of 2003, my late husband and I enjoyed mountain biking from the trailhead near North Bend for about 7 miles on this trail, then head back. This was one of his happiest times, enjoying the view and riding across the trestles. He died in Oct of 2003, so this trail holds special memories. My family and I really enjoyed this trail.
"Last weekend I finally decided to venture out to the western portion of this trail. By far, this is one of the coolest treks that I have taken. The 40+ mile round trip from North Bend across the Cascade Mountains and through the Snoqualmie Tunnel is phenomenal. For the most part, the trail was in very good shape, save a couple of trestles which had too much ballast on them. Restrooms are plentiful along the route, but not water fountains. The western origin, Rattlesnake Lake, merits a hike in & of itself to its butte.
About the tunnel: I've read reviews of folks walking or cycling through the darkness with no lights. While not recommended personally, it does make it much more sensational (but I had both of my lights turned on for the entire length). I had a couple of close run-ins with folks who were walking in big groups. I would recommend gloves; you do feel chilly, especially if you're starting at the tunnel. Water did fall on me, but nothing of significance.
So my vote: I can't wait to do this portion again. The scenery is incredible."
"I biked on the Iron Horse Trail from USFS Rd.54 to Easton,Wa.on May 25,2005.
The length of the ride was approx. 10 miles. The trail was in excellent condition,with only a few mud puddles near the entrances to the tunnels.
For the railfan, the real scenery is at the Easton end of the trail. From Easton, go west approx. 2 miles to where the trail and the rails are only 30 or so feet apart. Lots of rail action, 2 high trail trestles over the BNSF Stampede Pass Line.
P.S. I may have dropped a 35mm.film canister at the trailhead parking lot at Rd.54. If found,please e-mail me. I also found a pair of bifocals in a black case at the East end of the first tunnel. I left them there.
I met two bikers pulling bike trailers going Westbound and one hiker who had hiked down to the first tunnel and was returning to his car at Rd.54. All in all, a great ride."
"Each spring the non-profit John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association organizes a two week trip along the trail from Easton to Tekoa. You can ride a horse, drive a wagon, walk or bike. You get daily shuttle service and interesting campsites.
For more information, please see the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association's Web site."
"We started in North Bend on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and carefully found the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at the Cedar River watershed education center at Rattlesnake Lake.
The bridge at Mine Creek has new ballast on it and should be ridden cautiously. Otherwise, we had a fine 50-mile round-trip and I must say this is the finest rail-trail I have ever been on!!"
"My partner and I did part of this trail in early May (2004) and enjoyed it. We went from Rattlesnake Lake on the western end up through the Snoqualmie Tunnel and back. I took a road bike and put 30mm wide tires on it and the ride was doable, a mountain bike would have been a lot better and more comfortable. Some of the longer trestles on this section have the original ballast and that was difficult riding so we walked our bikes across most of those trestles.
The day we went we had a few showers but like they say: ""There is no such thing as inappropriate cycling weather only inappropriate cycling clothing""
The tunnel was fun. At 2 1/4 miles it is dark but you can just see a light at the other end but take a light. We started walking our bikes through and soon people passed us riding in the opposite direction, the rider on the front bike did not have a light but the second one did and this provided just enough light to ride. We decided to try it and it worked. The surface in the tunnel was better than the trail so riding was good. Did I mention the tunnel was long, it took almost half an hour to ride through!
The second day I planned to ride from Hyak, near the east portal of the Snoqualmie Tunnel to Easton or Cle Elum. This is a good spot to talk about the importance of having up-to-date trail information. I was relying on two guide books The Official Rails-to-Trail Conservancy Guidebook for Washington and Oregon (published in 2001) and Washington’s Rail-Trails (2nd edition published 2002). Both of these books say that the bridge over the Yakima River is out and DO NOT try and cross the old bridge. Both books gave information on where to leave the trail and make your way on back roads to Easton to avoid the bridge. Each book had you leave the trail at a different spot. Well, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer and I looked at each spot and felt that if I went off the trail on these dirt roads (the trail was a freeway compared to the detour they described) and was uncomfortable enough to get back on the trail and press on to the bridge. When I got there the trail was blocked, there is a new bridge being built and it was almost complete, to my eye anyway. I think that this bridge will be open in the very near future so find someone to ask before starting out on this section. Luckily I had a cell phone and found that I could call my partner and she met me almost back where I had started.
We enjoyed the trail and look forward to going back and doing more of the eastern portion.
-Marcia Scanlon & Phil Grinton"
"Rather than take the path most traveled through the long tunnel west at Hyak, we turned east and rode past Lake Keechelus to Easton. We found one tunnel not on any maps we had, and a couple of short, newly contructed bridges over the Yakima R. and Cabin Creek. The track is hard packed gravel, but there are some soft spots. Several small waterfalls and rock formations are featured, as well as great lake and river views. The trestle is gone at Lake Easton, so you will need to use the 1.6 m. bypass trail to Lake Easton State Park. A mile East or so further you can regain the track eastbound at Easton, if desired. This was a pleasant uncrowded 17 mile ride. I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5."
"We have biked different sections on different days as well as skied some: from the Snoqualmie pass tunnel to Easton, from Easton to South Cle Elum, from South Cle Elum to Thorp.
1. Tunnel to South Cle Elum: This is a beautiful 26+ mile ride in the summer behind the lake and on down to Easton through the trees. Usually the wind blows west through the pass, so on a hot day it will be cooler with the air moving across the water. The ground is fairly hard packed (although watch for someone adding gravel), and we were able to make some pretty fast time up and back. The tunnel is a blast. CARRY LIGHT AND WARM CLOTHES- a 2.3 mile hole in the rock is going to be DARK and COLD!
2. Easton to South Cle Elum is a reasonably graveled stretch of about 12 miles, mostly through alternating forest and horse pasture. No spetacular views here, but it is pleasent. Serveral trestles over the Yakima and pretty river sections.
3. South Cle Elum to Thorp is approx 18 miles with more gravel than I would have liked, which makes this a workout even going downhill. However, this is probably the most scenic of all the sections we've been on. You are riding the transition between eastern cascade forest to sagebrush, and go through some rather remote sections of the Yakima canyon. Wildlife is VERY common- watch for deer in the damp meadows off the side. There are two tunnels towards Thorp, one of which will require lights.
CLOSE ALL GATES. There are ranchers in this area- you don't want to be the inadvertant cause of a cow/car incident."
"Correction to my comments of 8/22. The Forest Service road that provides access to the trail is about a mile east (not west) of Olallie State Park. This is several miles east of North Bend, on the south side of Interstate 90. The trail does not actually pass through the city of North Bend."
"This trail (at least the western portion of it) is also known as the ""John Wayne Trail."" I rode a mountain bike from about 12 miles west of the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel to Cle Elum, about 30 miles east of the tunnel.
The overall trail is crushed rock with two travelled paths of well compacted fine crushed rock that are negotiable with a road bike; however, there are occasional areas of larger, looser rock that make a mountain bike preferable.
West of Snoqualmie Pass, the trail runs several hundred feet above Interstate 90 and about a mile away from it. It generally runs through mature (though not virgin) forest and over many small cascading creeks. However, power transmission lines and traffic noise from I-90 detract from the aesthetics. Road access to the trail in this area is not well marked and is limited to a Forest Service road about a mile west of Ollalie State Park. Improved directions to the trail would be warranted, since this part of the trail is the most scenic and also the closest to the Seattle area.
Going through the tunnel requires a flashlight because the tunnel is not perfectly straight -- meaning that you can't see the light at the end of it, and it is totally dark. There are reflectors on the sides of the tunnel that help cyclists who have lights to navigate it.
East of Snoqualmie Pass, the trees become smaller and the power lines larger and more intrusive. The trail parallels Lake Keechelus for a few miles, but the lake is not very attractive in summer because it is drawn down for irrigation water supply, exposing large areas of shoreline that are barren except for tree stumps. There are a few scenic spots where the trail gets away from I-90 and crosses or runs parallel to the Yakima River, but those spots are relatively infrequent. The trail detours through Lake Easton State Park -- around Lake Easton -- and through the town of Easton. There should be a sign near the Easton Post Office directing people back to the trail, but one is lacking.
Washington State generally has some of the best scenery in the U.S., but I would have to say that the best of it does not occur along the Iron Horse Trail."
I rode this trail on the start of my Bike tour it was great! mostly hard pack gravel easy level grade. I had problems finding it in northbend it was not signed well. so I asked around and found the trail head after a fairly steep climb up a hill but I highly recomend this trail.
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