The magazine published by the nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy features this month one of the most scenic rail-trails for bicycling in western Washington — the Foothills Trail in Pierce County.
I know this because I wrote the article. You can read Destination Washington: Following the Foothills Trail at the link.
The “destination” article is a regular 3-page feature in the back of Rails to Trails Magazine that suggests rail-trails that are worthy of visits from out-of-town or out-of-state.
The Foothills Trail certainly fits the bill. Its proximity to the awesome presence of Mount Rainier is certainly a major attraction. The main paved stem of the trail also rolls next to three rivers, including the wild Carbon River that drains the Carbon Glacier on Mount Rainier. Small towns along the route offer services and diversions to bicyclists.
While riding this trail numerous times and researching this article, I discovered a number of interesting facts about the Foothills Trail:
It was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 1870s to connect the coalfields and timberlands at the base of Mount Rainier to the port of Tacoma; it was later extended eastward over Stampede Pass as a transcontinental railroad;
A local doctor, concerned about local folks’ well-being, first had the idea to turn the abandoned railroad into a trail;
The 15 miles of paved trail between Puyallup and South Prairie is only about half the total railroad right-of-way in the region;
Paved and soft-surface sections of Foothills Trail exist in historic Enumclaw and Buckley, as well as a winding section in Cascade Junction that’s currently inaccessible to the public;
Dirt trail sections suitable for mountain biking run along Wilkeson Creek and between the town of Wilkeson and Carbanado;
Volunteers with the Foothills Rail Trail Coalition are extending the trail from Carbonado to the ghost town of Fairfax, near an entrance to Mount Rainier National Park;
Plans are underway to acquire private property and close the gaps on the trail so that Puyallup, Orting, South Prairie, and Buckley can be connected by trail, with possible links to Wilkeson at Cascade Junction (the county presently is waiting to hear about a trail-building grant ;
Long-range plans call for connections into King County via the Sumner and Interurban (South) trails.
To learn more about the Foothills Trail, read the article and also check the map for trail head locations. Another good source is Traillink.com.
Also more Foothills Trail news is available here.