Rails To Trails: Washington & Oregon
by Mia Barbera (The Globe Pequot Press)
© Mia Barbera/The Globe Pequot Press. All Rights Reserved.
This trail is just great. We went with about six people and left one car at Rattlesnake Lake and drove up to Snoqualmie to start the trail at Hyak. The tunnel is at the beginning of the trail and was extremely cold and my flashlight was way too dim. There was a 200 foot long snow patch about 15 mins into the trail and just walked our bikes over it. The bike ride was super easy. Bring lunch, drinks and snacks, this 22 mile trail took us about 3+ hours to do at a leisurely pace. There are two campgrounds along the trail each with toilets. They are Carter Creek and Alice Creek. The Alice Creek campground which is about an hour from the start of Hyak had about 8+ campsites on both sides of raging Alice creek. There is a tunnel at the bottom of the creek where I am told there is a natural pool for swimming/bathing. Check the WA parks webpage for current campsite fees. There are also several hiking trails off this route (Annette Lake (5 mi RT from this trail, McClellan Butte (6.8 mi RT from this trail), Twin Falls (3 mi RT from this trail). Each of the trails are also accessible from the trail heads off I-90 and will be about a mile or so longer from the trailheads. McClellan Butte at 5,162 feet has views of Seattle, Mt Rainier, the Olympics and Puget Sound. We ended the trail at Rattlesnake Lake which you can take a swim in the lake to cool off in the hot summer months. Next time we plan to leave stuff for a barbeque at Rattlesnake Lake to enjoy at the end of our ride. We may even plan an overnighter and check out some of the hiking trails. If you wanted to do the trail from Rattlesnake to Hyak there are bathrooms and showers at the Hyak parking area. If you only wanted to do 10 miles of the trail you can also access the trail at the halfway point using Forest Service Road 9021 near Garcia, there is parking at the end of the road.
I rode sections of this trail two days in a row, to figure out the best way to take short family ride with kids through the Snowqualmie tunnel section. The trail is on an old railroad right of way and runs along the mountainsides a short ways above I-90. Look on the mountain side to the right of I-90 heading east, for power lines and trestles as you head east from North Bend, towards Snowqualmie, if you want to see the line of the trail which the power lines also follow. The route is fairly scenic with waterfalls, beautiful and impressive old trestles and the tunnel is a real treat if you are prepared with a couple of powerful flashlights, jacket and hood or cap to shed the few dripping areas in the tunnel. If you ride a lot in the northwest the forest scenery will probably seem typical to you but impressive and interesting to visitors. For myself, I never really felt out in the wilderness - you are some distance uphill from I-90, but you can always hear the roar of traffic - like a fast flowing river or waterfalls below you. For inexperienced and un-conditioned riders, you should not try to ride east to the tunnel. The nearest good trail heads are too far away and would wear out and discourage weak riders. I found a trail head 1-2 miles east of Twin Falls Trail head but it still took over an hour to get to the tunnel, all up hill on the low level railroad grade. For a quick tour for weaker riders, youngsters and family you should drive I-90 east to Hyak exit and follow the Iron Horse Trail(also called John Wayne Trail) signs to the parking lot. Heading west(right when facing the trail from the Hyak parking lot) you enter the tunnel around a bend just 1 or 2 tenths of a mile away. If your group is up to a return ride uphill, you can continue downhill from the west end of the tunnel, about 3 miles to a very nice, high trestle, and check that out, before you turn around and ride back.
Beautiful and extraordinarily peaceful. There were a lot of mosquitoes, however, and we had to keep moving to avoid being swarmed. I will definitely go back, but will be well armed with bug spray.
This is a great trail with bathroom stops every 2-3 miles and several camping spots and 10 miles out a picnic area. Trail was good for Mt. Bikes and Hybrid bikes but a challenge for my wife's street tires. Still she rode the entire way including the justly described spooky 2.3 mile train tunnel. Our round trip was 5 hours but would have been faster if not for some mechanical trouble. The tunnel is very dark and really bright lights are a must.
The views were really great and the tressles a kick. Gravel on the tressels was challenging on two of the highest but side fences make it safe as far as falling off goes. This is one we want to show to friends.
Earl and Ellen Janes
We rode from S Cle Elum to Thorp. It is a very reasonable surface and a very pleasant ride. Once away from Cle Elum and the highway, it was quiet and scenic as one parallels the river. The trip as ridden was about 18 miles.
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