Most of us bicycling on the rail-trail through Iron Horse State Park in Washington limit ourselves to the 20-some miles between Cedar Falls and the 2.3-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel at Hyak.
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail doesn’t stop at Hyak, however. It continues eastward through Washington to the Idaho border.
Recently I rode the 20-mile bike trail section from Hyak to beyond Easton to learn more about the trail east of the Snoqualmie Tunnel.
High and dry
This is the high and dry side of the Cascades. There are evergreens, but they’re not as lush as those on the western side. Moss and ferns aren’t as abundant just east of Hyak, and disappear altogether near Easton.
The trail itself is in great condition. I comfortably rode my mountain bicycle running 1-1/4 inch slick tires and had no trouble. Most of the trail is hard-packed.
The trail rolls along the south shore of Lake Keechelus. There are stunning wide-open views of mountain peaks across the lake, which in the late summer is at its lowest level. The dam is the head of the Yakima River, and I’m told visitors can hike out and see the river emerging.
Compared to the climb from Cedar Falls to Hyak, this 20-mile stretch is fairly level. It drops from 2,600 feet at Hyak to 2,169 feet at Easton.
Remember that all tunnels on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail were closed because of hazardous conditions in 2009, and only the Snoqualmie Tunnel has been reopened.
You’ll encounter two tunnels on this section. The first is 10.7 miles east of Hyak. There are signs for a detour around this short tunnel, and “No Trespassing” signs at the tunnel entrance.
The tunnel is open, however, and there’s a bit of a rocky path along the north wall. A careful bicyclist might make if through here, although the rock-littered floor is evidence of occasional wall collapses.
Continuing east, you’ll pass a turnoff to the small community of Cabin Creek. At mile 16 there’s a high trestle crossing of the meandering Yakima River.
Lake Easton detour
Soon you’ll arrive at a second bridge over part of Lake Easton. There’s another tunnel beyond, but there’s no access. It lies on the other side of a bike-pedestrian bridge over Lake Easton and the east side of the bridge is locked with a chain-link gate.
The detour passes along a dirt bicycle trail through Lake Easton that hooks up with a short portion of the old Sunset Highway, the first paved route over the Cascades. An old bridge is labeled with the year it was built, 1927.
The detour continues through Lake Easton State Park (the first drinking water since Hyak) and out to an two-lane road alongside I-90. The detour continues eastward here (right turn) to Easton. If you need services, like a grocery or restaurant, then turn left and head over the freeway to a mini-mart and restaurant about a half-mile away.
When I passed through Easton on Sunday, the Easton Saloon (“Voted Easton’s Best Sports Bar”) was the only place open. A building labeled grocery was boarded up and a gas station/store/motel was for sale and looked to be closed.
The detour ends east of Easton at another trailhead with pit toilets and water fountain. East of here, the trail heads into dry, grassy ranch land. It’s about 12 miles to South Cle Elum, which I’m saving for my next trek this way.
There are two primitive camping areas with pit toilets in the vicinity of Lake Keechelus and two primitive campsites at Lake Easton State Park (check at the ranger station).
The first, Cold Creek, is on the north side of the trail and the tent sites are a little close to the pit toilet for my liking. Less than 4 miles away is the Roaring Creek camp, with sites on both sides of the trail.
As for services, there’s nothing between Hyak and Lake Easton. Take your water purification kit if you’re camping.
00.0 Hyak — Restrooms at tailhead. Remember your Discovery Pass if parking.
1.8 mile Cold Creek campsites
5.5 mile Roaring Creek campsites
6.8 mile Lost Lake Road crossing
8.3 mile Stampede Pass Road crossing (marked for alternate route, but this goes to I-90 for bicyclists taking the shoulder of freeway)
10.7 mile Detour for tunnel no. 49
15.5 mile Cabin Creek turnoff
16 mile Yakima River crossing
16.8 mile Detour through Lake Easton State Park
20.0 mile Easton
21.2 mile Easton trailhead
Check the John Wayne Pioneer Trail keyword below for more stories about the trail.