John Wayne Pioneer Trail 7/7/2012

Today we checked out the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, also called the Iron Horse Trail. It is an old railroad grad that extends across the state and beyond. We didn’t know much about the trail or how fast we would travel on the mountain bikes, so we picked a trailhead and went for it.

We parked at the McClellan Butte trailhead, which only had about 6 cars parked at 11:00 am on a nice Saturday. Already planning to come back here for a non crowded hike.

We had to hike up the beginning of this trail to access the Iron Horse trail. There were too many rocks and roots for the first day out on the mountain bikes.

When we reached the forest road, there was a confusing sign with an arrow point up a hiking trail for Iron Horse and down the forest road for the McClellan Butte trail. After consulting the map, we decided to head down the forest road to see if we ran into anything.

What we found was a forest road with rough surface and a few creek crossings.

After 2 creek crossings we came to this valley and decided it was time to turn around.

We went back to that junction where we made the wrong choice and walked our bikes up the switchbacks on the trail. And then we finally found the right trail.

On this smooth trail we could ride side by side with plenty of visibility to avoid oncoming bikers.

This bridge was about 200 feet above a creek and a forest road.

The scenery was beautiful. There was a great view of the peaks on the other side of the valley, lots of old rock slides and avalanches, and a few little waterfalls.

The Snoqualmie tunnel is 2.2 miles long and goes through a mountain near the top of the pass. We stopped to strap on our headlamps and extra lights. It was at least 20 degrees cooler inside the tunnel…maybe more like 30.

It was a slow ride through the dark tunnel. There were not that many people, but a lot of them didn’t have lights. We saw quite a few bikes traveling the other direction.

At the other side we ended up at Hyak. There was a park with a large parking lot and nice facilities. We ate our picnic lunch looking up at the Summit East ski area. We noticed advertisements for a shuttle that will drive you and your bike up to the pass so you can ride back down on the trail. That is cheating!

During lunch we planned some future camping trips. Then we went back through the tunnel and flew downhill. It was a really fun trip, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trail looks like.

Total distance: 24 miles on the trail, about 3 miles of forest road, and about 1 mile of hiking. Warm and sunny all day.

What I learned: Be patient. We always seem to get off to a rough start while we’re figuring out the route, but it always works out. The wrong turn at the beginning only made for a more exciting adventure.

What I would do next time: Start at the westernmost end of the trail and bring camping gear!

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